Independent Lens: Hell And Back Again
Airs Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 10:30 p.m. on KPBS TV
Originally published May 23, 2012 at 4:39 p.m., updated June 12, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
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.
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.
Listen to the NPR Story
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.