REVIEW: HELL AND BACK AGAIN
In 2009, U.S. Marines launched a major helicopter assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Within hours of being dropped deep behind enemy lines, 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris’s unit (US Marines Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment) is attacked from all sides. Cut off and surrounded, the Marines fight a ghostlike enemy and experience immense hostility from displaced villagers caught in the middle.
Director Danfung Dennis, embedded as a photojournalist in Echo Company during the assault, captures the frontline action with visceral immediacy. When Sergeant Harris returns home to North Carolina after a life-threatening injury in battle, HELL AND BACK AGAIN evolves from a war exposé to the story of one man’s personal apocalypse.
On January 24, 2012, HELL AND BACK AGAIN will be available nationally through a platform release across Cable VOD, digital download and streaming platforms, Blu-ray and DVD. The film will air on the PBS television series “Independent Lens” in May 2012 through a partnership with the producers and ITVS.
The “stars” of the film are Nathan Harris and his wife, Ashley (now 29 years old). They are self-aware, articulate, funny and generous. They have shared their most intimate and painful moments with the world in order to help us understand what they and hundreds of thousands like them are going through. Ashley’s role in Nathan’s rehabilitation is a great testimony to what thousands of women are going through, trying to maintain intimacy and normalcy while picking up the pieces of the lives of their husbands, sons, fathers or brothers.
Currently garnering critical acclaim in theaters and film festivals across the country, HELL AND BACK AGAIN is Danfung Dennis’s first feature film and the first ever to be shot entirely with a highly customized Canon 5D Mark II digital SLR camera rig. Despite widespread publication of Dennis’s pictures as a photojournalist for several international news outlets, he found that he was unable to convey the brutal realities on the ground – either the public was numb to these same images of war or traditional media outlets were not committed to coverage of the conflicts. This drove Dennis to explore the medium of the moving image. Whereas before he was simply making pictures with movement, now he has combined photojournalism with the tradition and narrative structure of filmmaking.
Says Dennis: “Through my work I hope to shake people from their indifference to war, and to bridge the disconnect between the realities on the ground and the public consciousness at home. By bearing witness and shedding light on another’s pain and despair, I am trying to invoke our humanity and a response to act.”
HELL AND BACK AGAIN was edited by Fiona Otway from roughly 100 hours of footage. In order to weave the parallel story lines encompassing the marines of Echo Company during their deployment in Afghanistan along with Nathan’s homecoming in North Carolina, Otway and Dennis crafted a delicate structure that jumps back and forth across different chronologies, physical geographies, subjectivities and psychological landscapes.
Composer J. Ralph created the sound design for HELL AND BACK AGAIN using only recordings that Danfung actually captured while in the field. To translate the intense isolation and disorientation that Nathan experienced coming home from war, atmospheric soundscapes were achieved using only basic EQ, reverb, and speed changes at key moments.
HELL AND BACK AGAIN premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won Grand Jury and Cinematography prizes. The film premiered theatrically in October 2011 and continues to tour nationwide. HELL AND BACK AGAIN is nominated for Film Independent’s “Truer Than Fiction” Spirit Award, 4 Cinema Eye Awards, and a British Independent Film Award for Best Documentary. Danfung Dennis is the recipient of International Documentary Association’s Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Filmmaker Award and the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.
1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen 1080P
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master
Audio Dolby Digital
Subtitles - English
Commentary with Director Danfung Dennis and Editor Fiona Otway
Gear Demo: How HELL AND BACK AGAIN was filmed
Nelson’s “Hell and Back: Slide Show"
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