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The Global Film Village: Afghan War Film Opens 2010 Sundance Film Festival

by Marla Lewin

Marla Lewin co-producer Life After War photo by Jimmy Malecki














Back in 2002 we were in Park City at Sundance with Doug Pray of Scratch. It was four months after 9/11, and we had heard about what was going on in Afghanistan the previous night over dinner. At lunch the next day with Doug we began discussions about producing a film about Afghanistan. Rebuilding Afghanistan was conceived to tell that story.

The project was to be “a first-rate documentary film. A film that goes far beyond the soundbites of the evening news and whatever reportable short-term results may surface. A film that is compassionate, honest, and delves deep into the psyche of those who are committed and working hard to rebuild Afghanistan. A film that reveals human drama as opposed to political discussion, and portrays specific developments rather than generalized overviews. In short, a film not about what people say, but about what people do, when faced with such immense challenges”.This excerpt was taken form the original package we put together and sent off before the 2002 Sundance festival ended. Within two weeks Daniel Pearl had been kidnapped and killed and our chances of pre-selling our documentary vanished. Under the circumstances I couldn’t justify sending Doug a father of two small children in to harm’s way.

Eight months passed and  our partners had been contacted by one of Doug’s cameramen on Scratch who had a connection to Sarah Chayes and was willing to go to Afghanistan. Rather than being a story about Afghan refugees who had returned to their homeland to rebuild their country it became the story of an american war correspondent returning to a ravaged country to help rebuild it.

The film was put together quickly and privately financed by one of our original partners. A year later, we returned to Sundance to promote and screen a rough cut of Life After War. It was completed too late for submission but we were able to screen it for invited guests. The Sundance Channel bought the film later that year. An excerpt of the film was shown on PBS’s Frontline as A House for Haji Baba.

Life After War starring Sarah Chayes (c) 2003

Now six years later The Hurt Locker, has won the hearts of critics everywhere.  This year one of the opening night films at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival isRESTREPO, a documentary film set in Afghanistan, where the war continues, told by real soldiers, sharing their emotions and experience. 

I  recently asked Jeremy Renner on a red carpet, where he was receiving an award, how it was to be in war?  He said, “I just played at being in a war.”  TONIGHT, you can see the real thing. RESTREPO (US Documentary Competition) having its World Premiere is directed by Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger. This film will show what it is actually like to be in a country at war and trying to rebuild.

National Geographic Channel has acquired exclusive global broadcast rights to a RESTREPO prior to its screening at Sundance. The movie will premiere in the fall on National Geographic Channel worldwide. 










RESTREPO is set deep in eastern Afghanistan among the rugged Korengal Valley. This is epicenter of the current conflict and one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military. To make their thrilling documentary award-winning journalists Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (“The Perfect Storm”) embedded themselves with the soldiers of Second Platoon, Battle Company, as they fought to build and maintain a remote 15-man outpost in the Korengal. The outpost was named “Restrepo” after a platoon medic who was killed in action. Hetherington and Junger avoid all outside commentary and political context in order to present the war as it is actually lived by soldiers. We see it through their own eyes and in their own words, the backbreaking labor, the deadly firefights, the boredom, the camaraderie. RESTREPO is documentary filmmaking at its most bracingly visceral. (94 mins.)

Thursday, Jan. 21, 9:30 pm – Eccles Theatre
PRESS – Friday, Jan. 22, 11:00 am – Holiday Village I
Friday, Jan. 22, 9:30 pm – Screening Room, Sundance Resort
Saturday, Jan. 23, 3:30 pm – Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, SLC
Sunday, Jan. 24, 9:00 am – Egyptian Theatre Wednesday, Jan. 27, 3:00 pm – Yarrow Hotel Theatre
Saturday, Jan. 30, 12:00 pm – Temple Theatre

Attending: Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger (Jan. 21-31)

see the RESTREPO trailer 

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About MarlaLewinGFV

Lewin Marla
(Global Film Village)

Marla is a producer, playwright, screenwriter, publicist and now a journalist. She attends 12 to 20 film festivals per year. She has spoken on filmmaking at many festivals including Cannes and SXSW.


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