This is the third and final blog entry in the series about the showing of RESTREPO last week at the New York State Museum’s Huxley Theater in Albany, NY. Part I talked about the movie itself, Part II talked about the book that compliments it and the soon to be famous soldier from the book and movie.
This final blog entry is about what happened after the showing of the movie….
When the movie ended, the audience erupted in applause. I figured most were moved and emotionally manipulated by the movie and my suspicions were correct. After those that couldn’t stay left, the others from the overflow area came into the main theater and took the empty seats. Again the theater was filled along with many who were standing along the outside walls.
Joining me at the front of the theater was filmmaker and director Tim Hetherington and Brendan O’Byrne. Brendan was a Sergeant that was in 2nd platoon and was interviewed and talked about many times in Sebastian Junger’s book “WAR”. It is also Brendan’s face on the cover of the book and it is Brendan on the cover of the poster for RESTREPO. Tim was Sebastian’s partner in their project to document the deployment of the men at the Korengal outpost and outpost RESTREPO. They were the stars of the show, I was simply facilitating the Q&A and adding some commentary when needed based on my experience in the military and in Afghanistan.
The Q&A sessions took on more of a feel of a town-hall meeting (as Tim pointed out later). The questions did not go in the path I thought and hoped, as in they were not all about the movie. I thought people would ask “Why did that happen…” or “What did you think when….?”. There was some of that, but not near as much as I thought there would be. Due to the recent press coverage about Afghanistan, GEN McCrystal resigning, etc, there were a lot of questions about US policy in Afghanistan, military strategy and general WHYs? “Why are we there?”, “Why haven’t we had more progress?” and other questions of that nature.
It was obvious that there were some ultra-left (President) Bush hating Democrats and there were some very conservative Republicans in the audience. They tended to turn what was supposed to be questions into just general statements based on their political views. I tried to steer away from them as quickly as possible, but it was hard to do and not offend someone. Regardless of what the political view was the overall feeling was of respect for the soldiers.
The questions started heating up to the point of there were more than I could count. I did my best to go from left to right and spreading around the room as much as possible. At one point I looked over to Dr. Siegfried and saw that he was giving me the five minute sign. After a few more questions I wrapped it up. I apologized for not taking any more questions, again thanked every one for coming out and reminded everyone to tell their friends and family about the movie and to go see it wherever they can in the country.
As people were leaving the theater, both Brendan and Tim were outside signing movie posters, postcards, copies of “WAR” that were sold that night and just generally talking to people. As this was going on I leaned over to ask Tim and Brendan if they wanted to go out and grab a beer after we were done. They both readily agreed and said they would love to.
Two of my teammates from Afghanistan that I have talked about many times before on this blog, Prophet and Puss, were at the showing that night and were still hanging around. I asked Puss if he knew of a local watering-hole and he said he knew of a good German pub. Once we left the museum, the five of us headed over the pub and settled into a back table. For the next couple of hours Brendan, Tim, Prophet, Puss and myself all raised our glasses to honor those who were no longer with us anymore and proceeded to talk about our families, the war in Afghanistan, comparing it to other war experiences, the strategy and overall war policy. That night over a few smooth Hefeweizen beers we solved all the problems in Afghanistan, just too bad it never left the table. However if the President or GEN Petreaus were with us, they would have gotten some earful on what it would take to make things right.
As the bar closed, we all exchanged phone numbers, email addresses and promised to stay in contact. We also all agreed that we made some great friends that night and were glad that we did. As I look back, I realized that the night will go down as another in my list of accomplishments that have come about as a result of me starting this simple blog. Due to my blogging I was asked to help host this movie, then I was asked to facilitate the Q&A, and then I met some great guys who have hearts of gold and minds of warriors. Tim may be a photo-journalist, but he has hung with some of the greatest warriors in the worst of areas in the world.
I invite you to check out Tim’s site and some of this past accomplishments at http://www.timhetherington.com. If you would like to hear Tim’s impressions and reflections on his time in the Korengal Valley head over to http://www.bouhammer.com/2010/06/bouhammer-com-presents-restrepo/ and check out the 2nd video in that posting.
Thank you for reading, Bouhammer out….