Restrepo: Outreach Notes

restrepo (2010)By Kanani Fong

Restrepo, a film by the late Tim Hetherington and author Sebastian Junger, was the right film at the right time. By the time Restrepo was being released in 2010, America had been at war for almost 10 years.

For the first time since World War II, a massive support system had organized for active duty and current war vets. This movement came  together starting in garages, home offices, and organizing primarily on the internet. By the time our film was ready to come, out, new non-profits and support groups were plentiful. Because of blogs, and social media, Americans had access to a less-filtered perspective about war: from boots-on-the-ground to Household Six.

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Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington in Los Angeles, in the days before the release of Restrepo.

So the time was right for a film about a platoon of men, on the top of a rugged mountain, engaging in firefights on a daily basis with the enemy. It was time for the rest of America to have front row seat into the world of combat, and see what our veterans, their supporters, and their families already knew.

While the film won Best Documentary at Sundance Film Festival®, we knew that outreach was only beginning.  While the critics loved our film, it was important that the military community embrace it as theirs.

Working in connection with our swell PR team, we worked to bring Restrepo to the milbloggers, non-profit organizations, families, private, and government entities. We played on bases, in Washington DC, in museums, and film festivals. We reached out to small organizations in towns across the nation. Not only was it important to contact national organizations with multi-million dollar budgets, but also to those that ran on a shoestring. From quilters to snipers, yogis to milbloggers, and veterans from all wars, the outreach on Restrepo was broad. People who saw it related to the guys on the screen. It became their story, their mission to get the film seen.

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Tim Hetherington with a quilt presented to him by the Quilts of Valor Foundation.

Like a quilt, what we did with Restrepo, was to provide the pieces. The military and veteran community did the sewing, and in the end, what we had was something authentically theirs.

Facebook was our primary means of communication. Word spread of our theatrical releases, film festival screenings –everything connected the film was talked about there. Tim Hetherington had several spirited conversations.  When Restrepo received an Academy Award© nomination for Best Documentary, our fan club was well in place. Enthusiasm ran so high, our fans helped produce their own slide show, Restrepo in Three Words.

After the Oscars, Tim Hetherington wrote, “While we didn’t get to take home the little gold man, going down the red carpet with those soldiers [from the film] was one of the highlights of my life so far … and a real finale to an incredible journey. And although this particular journey may be over, the film lives on!”

From "Restrepo in three words." Photos sent in from viewers.

From “Restrepo in three words.” Photos sent in from viewers.

Sadly, less than a month later, Tim was killed in Libya. The community mourned him as one of them. This gave comfort to Sebastian and the team, as they carried with them, as they went on to make “Which Way Is The Front Line From Here,” and “Korengal,” and “The Last Patrol.”

 

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