Hell and Back Again
Where: The Belcourt
When: Sunday, Oct. 23 and Monday, Oct. 24
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Danfung Dennis' Hell and Back Again is the latest in a string of remarkable documentaries from the frontlines of the war on terror. What makes Dennis' film uniquely devastating is that, like the horrors of war, it follows its subject home. At war, it is reminiscent of 2010's Sundance award-winner Restrepo. At home, it achieves the noble aim of 2009's drama Brothers in getting us to consider the impact of the sacrifices made on our behalf, on the people who actually make them. As financiers of the war effort, we should be required to watch it.
For those of us unfamiliar with the battlefield, and what it's like to return home from it, Hell and Back Again is as close as we'll come to understanding without actually taking a bullet. For 88 minutes, we are pulled back and forth, from home to war zone and back again, without warning. And as his devoted wife, Ashley, looks on, so is Sgt. [Nathan] Harris. Having suffered a gunshot wound to the hip, he's come home from deployment deep behind enemy lines. He is dependent on Ashley and, increasingly, medication. His now-fragile body is matched by a fragile psyche — even something as mundane as car passengers talking can send him, and us, right back to Afghanistan.
As a photojournalist, Dennis has more than justified his profession here, as words seem wholly inadequate to express what his film shows. Among the images you're unlikely to forget are those of Harris waving a pistol as he drives down the road, or the soldier playing Call of Duty as the fictional war on screen is juxtaposed with scenes from Afghanistan.
Read the full review here.