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INDEPENDENT LENS: Hell And Back Again

Airs Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: A scene from "Hell And Back Again" with Marines entering a home in Southern Afghanistan.

What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home — injured physically and psychologically — and build a life anew? As more and more veterans return from deployment these questions must be answered, not only by those who fought, but by their families, their friends and their fellow citizens.

Ashley Harris and Sergeant Nathan Harris.
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Above: Ashley Harris and Sergeant Nathan Harris.

Filmed and directed by Danfung Dennis, "Hell And Back Again" seamlessly transitions from stunning war reportage to an intimate, visceral portrait of one man’s personal struggle back home in North Carolina. There Sergeant Nathan Harris confronts the physical and emotional difficulties of readjusting to civilian life with the love and support of his wife, Ashley.

Masterfully contrasting the intensity of the front line with the unsettling normalcy of home, "Hell And Back Again" was nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary. The film will premiere on the PBS series INDEPENDENT LENS, hosted by Mary Louise-Parker.

Marines of Echo Company 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.
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Above: Marines of Echo Company 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment.

Sergeant Nathan Harris at home.
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Above: Sergeant Nathan Harris at home.

Ashley Harris
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Above: Ashley Harris

The story follows the U.S. Marines Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, as they launch a major assault on a Taliban stronghold in Southern Afghanistan.

Within hours of being dropped deep behind enemy lines, Sergeant Harris’s unit is attacked from all sides. Cut off and surrounded, the Marines fight a ghostlike enemy and experience immense hostility from displaced villagers. Frustration grows on both sides, as any common ground, or success, seems elusive.

The parallel story begins with Sergeant Harris’s return home to his wife after he is severely injured. He’s in terrible physical pain and becomes dependent on his pain medication.

But his psychological pain may be worse, as he attempts to reconcile the gulf between his experiences at war and the return to civilian life, one of a generation of veterans struggling to find an identity in a country that is often indifferent.

Nathan and Ashley Harris have shared their most intimate and painful moments for the film in order to illuminate what they, and thousands like them, are going through.

Ashley’s role in Nathan’s rehabilitation is testimony to what thousands of loved ones are experiencing: trying to maintain normalcy while picking up the pieces of the lives of the wounded warriors who return home.

INDEPENDENT LENS is on Facebook, and you can follow @IndependentLens on Twitter. "Hell and Back Again" is on Facebook, and you can follow @hellnbackagain on Twitter.

Video

Trailer: Independent Lens: Hell And Back Again

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Watch Oscar-Nominated Hell and Back Again Comes to PBS on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Above: What does it mean to lead men in war? What does it mean to come home -- injured physically and psychologically -- and build a life anew? In this program, two overlapping narratives are intercut -- the life of a Marine at war on the front and the life of the same Marine in recovery at home -- creating both a dreamlike quality and a strikingly realistic depiction of how Marines experience this war.

Video

Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines stage an assault

Above: Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines stage an assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan in 2009. Filmmaker and embedded photojournalist Danfung Dennis captured the action with a jury-rigged camera for the documentary film, "Hell And Back Again."

Video

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: Hell And Back Again

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Watch A Marine Company is Debriefed Before Battle on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

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Video Excerpt: Hell And Back Again

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Watch For One Marine, a Parking Lot Becomes a Battleground on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.

Video

U.S. Marine Sergeant Nathan Harris teaches Ashley to use a firearm

Above: U.S. Marine Sergeant Nathan Harris, 27, teaches his wife and high school sweetheart, Ashley, to use a firearm, while recovering from a gunshot wound to the hip at his home in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Captured by filmmaker Danfung Dennis for the documentary film, "Hell and Back Again."

Comments

Avatar for user 'muzishun123'

muzishun123 | May 30, 2012 at 12:15 p.m. ― 1 year, 10 months ago

This guy tells us he joined the Marines at 18 years of age because he wanted to "kill people". He continues on, telling us that his recruiter felt that wanting to kill people is the best reason to join the Marines. This doesn't surprise me too much; but it does make me wonder about how our kids are raised. I do sympathize with the PTSD that can occur after combat. No-one should have to live with that; It's the "kill" mentality that manifest's itself even before some join the military that's disturbing. In this guy's case it kind of makes me feel that some sort of karma is at work here. Certainly terrorists have that same "kill" feeling. It's just sad.

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