War documentary 'Korengal' explores consequences of combat

NEW YORK Thu May 29, 2014 1:48pm EDT

Sebastian Junger, director of the Oscar-nominated war documentary Restrepo and its upcoming sequel Korengal, sits for a portrait in New York May 28, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Sebastian Junger, director of the Oscar-nominated war documentary Restrepo and its upcoming sequel Korengal, sits for a portrait in New York May 28, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Director and writer Sebastian Junger took audiences into a combat zone with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in his first documentary and goes a step further in "Korengal," delving into their psyche to explore the experience and effects of war.

The film, opening in New York on Friday and across the United States in June and July, is a follow-up to his 2011 Oscar-nominated film "Restrepo," which chronicled the lives of U.S. soldiers defending a hilltop outpost in the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan.

Junger also wrote about his experiences in his 2010 book titled "War."

In "Korengal," Junger questions members of Battle Company, part of the Second Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment and the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, about fear, bravery, camaraderie and adrenalin rushes during combat.

The soldiers also admit that despite counting the day until they can leave, they will miss the war and want to go back.

"One of the things I wanted to communicate with this film is that combat is a lot of things. It is not just one thing. It is very exciting for everybody. It is very scary for everybody. It is incredibly meaningful. It is very, very sad if you stop and think about what you are doing," Junger said in an interview.

"That mix is morally confusing to soldiers but also quite intoxicating," he added. "It really does get down to wanting to go back over and over again for more."

Junger, 52, co-directed "Restrepo" with British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, using material gathered while the two were embedded with the combat team in Afghanistan from May 2007 to June 2008.

The film, which had no musical score or narration, provided gripping images of firefights the soldiers encountered almost daily in the remote Korengal valley, an important passage used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

In 2011, Hetherington was killed while covering the Libyan civil war. After his death, Junger completed the second-part of the project, picking up where "Restrepo" left off, examining the impact of combat on soldiers.

"It is a film about the emotional experiences of war and its consequences," said Junger, author of the best-selling book "The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea," which was made into a 2000 feature film starring George Clooney.

Junger said the love-hate relationship with war dates back to ancient times. Soldiers miss the doses of adrenaline, the urgency and the brotherhood that exists in a small combat unit.

"I think a journalist's job is to represent reality truthfully. If that is one of the reactions that men have in combat, I think it should be portrayed and understood," he said.

"My hope was that if the soldiers understood their experience a little better, civilians might also and that both of those things would help in the process of reincorporating almost 3 million combat vets back into society back home."

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and David Gregorio)

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