Couch Potato Briefing: Journalists in Warzones

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Here’s our weekly installment of films to watch over the weekend — this week, we pay homage to Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros, stellar photojournalists who were killed April 20 while on assignment in Misratah, Libya.



Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger’s Oscar-nominated documentary is an intimate portrait of an U.S. army outpost in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley that won plaudits from across the political spectrum. In a moving piece addressed to his slain colleague and friend, Junger remembers their time together in Afghanistan:

You and I were always talking about risk because she was the beautiful woman we were both in love with, right? The one who made us feel the most special, the most alive? We were always trying to have one more dance with her without paying the price. All those quiet, huddled conversations we had in Afghanistan: Where to walk on the patrols, what to do if the outpost gets overrun, what kind of body armor to wear. You were so smart about it, too—so smart about it that I would actually tease you about being scared. Of course you were scared—you were terrified. We both were. We were terrified and we were in love, and in the end, you were the one she chose.


The Killing Fields

A true story, The Killing Fields follows Sydney Schanberg, then New York Times correspondent in Southeast Asia, covering the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. Schanberg was one of the first to write about the hideous, systematic pogroms set up by the Pol Pot regime of intellectuals and those deemed to be class enemies, and would win a Pulitzer for his reporting on the genocide. He was aided by Dith Pran, a local journalist, who served as his guide and fixer. As the Khmer Rouge violence spun out of control, Schanberg managed to flee the country — but Pran did not, and would spend four years clinging to survival in one of the country’s notorious labor camps until he escaped across the border to Thailand.


Welcome to Sarajevo

The “medieval siege” of Misratah has drawn comparisons to the bloody fighting that engulfed the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in the mid 1990s. Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) runs with a pair of journalists sent to the city — like Hondros and Hetherington, one is British, the other American — who, while reporting, get caught up in the plight of those they were dispatched to cover.


The Quiet American

Based on the 1955 Graham Greene novel, the film takes place in a Saigon still under French rule, long before it fell to the Viet Cong. The city is flooded with spooks and intrigue, and the story’s middle-aged protagonist, a veteran correspondent played by Michael Caine, gets entwined both in the arms of a ravishing younger local woman and in a plot hatched by his nationalist local fixer. He also finds himself in quite a few hairy situations on the frontlines.


War Photographer

Another Oscar-nominated documentary, this film follows James Nachtwey, a legendary photojournalist whose work has appeared frequently in the pages of TIME, as he voyages through conflicts in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa. He wrestles with his life’s calling: “The worst thing, as a photographer, is to feel that I’m benefitting from someone else’s tragedy. This idea haunts me.” Here’s Nachtwey on assignment for TIME in Afghanistan.