War reporters sign on for their jobs knowing that they might be killed in the line of duty. That doesn’t make it any easier to write up the obituary when a good one goes down. Yesterday, Tim Hetherington was killed (along with photographer Chris Hondros) while reporting on the civil war in Libya, shortly after updating his Facebook page to report indiscriminate shelling of the city of Misrata by Qaddafi’s forces. Details of his death are unclear, but it was reported on the Facebook page of fellow journalist Andre Liohn and confirmed by Hetherington’s employers at Associated Press.
The magazine to which he often contributed, Vanity Fair, has a retrospective portfolio of the photographs he took in Afghanistan such as the one above. As a film writer, I chiefly remember him for Restrepo, the documentary film that he and Sebastian Junger made recently. Based on the travails of U.S. soldiers struggling to establish a fort in the Taliban-controlled Korengal Valley in Afghanistan, it won an Oscar nomination and various other awards and received glowing reviews. I mentioned it in my list of 2010’s best documentaries. This may be a small thing in the ocean of blood spilled by Muammar Qaddafi’s murderous regime over the decades, but we mourn the loss of a brilliant filmmaker who surely would have made more films to bear witness to the world’s iniquities. Indiewire has a fuller tribute to both fallen journalists. This evening, pay tribute to this man by putting Restrepo in your Netflix queue or popping the DVD into your player. May Tim Hetherington’s work inspire others to take up his cause.