Karin McKie READ TIME: 2 MIN.

Director Sebastian Junger's follow-up to 2010's Academy Award nominee "Restrepo" is his raw documentary "Korengal."

Set in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, the "Valley of Death," the film follows the soldiers who remained when US forces pulled out of Operation Enduring Freedom in April 2010.

"You're in the Korengal, so the bad guys come to you and you kill them," a soldier says in this unadorned, slice-of-military-life format.

The men note how the tree-lined valley is picturesque, like Colorado Springs, except for the constant sniper attacks as the area is a weapons-running route for the Taliban. The area "could be a sports haven if they just stopped shooting at us," another soldier observes.

For 15-month deployments, the tattooed, guitar-playing men live in sandbag huts with no running water, waiting for helicopters to deliver supplies like a generator, so they can play Guitar Hero. The terrain is brutal, "we broke 15 ankles walking straight up mountains," especially when wearing 75 pounds of kit or carrying huge artillery like LAWs, light anti-tank weapons.

While clearly weary of the "snaps of constant bullets," the soldiers light up when talking about firefights as if they were video games. "What's not to like about a giant machine gun?" a grunt grunts.

Like in "Apocalypse Now," the mental decay caused by living under fear and adrenaline is manifested over time. One says "life is getting weird up here;" another "fighting another human being is not as hard as you think when they're trying to kill you."

The company universally expresses deep bonds with their compatriots, and one says "I could give a shit about this country - it's about those guys to my left and right."

"Korengal" is necessary viewing in order to remain vigilant about all victims of violence. The film should be shown over dinner tables like with Vietnam.

The DVD also contains Junger's commentary and his TED Talk called "Why Veterans Miss War." The director, also under constant fire, is as courageous as the soldiers to unflinchingly capture the ongoing price of war on warriors, to continue to shine a light on human hearts of darkness.


by Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at KarinMcKie.com

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