Danfung Dennis' documentary film Hell and Back Again won the World Cinema Cinematography Award for Documentary Filmmaking and World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary prizes at this year's Sundance Film Festival. His win comes a year after photographer Tim Hetherington won the Grand Jury Prize Documentary for Restrepo, which has now been nominated for an Academy Award.
Hell and Back Again is told through the eyes of one Marine serving in Afghanistan and his distressing rehabilitation. "Following Sergeant Nathan Harris of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, during a major assault on a Taliban stronghold, and his painful return home after a severe injury, the two stories communicate both the extraordinary drama of war and the no less shocking experience of returning home, as a whole generation of Marines struggle to find an identity in a country that prefers to be indifferent."
Upon accepting the awards, Dennis thanked the troop with which he was embedded. "This is for those that didn't come back," he added.
In June last year, Dennis spoke to BJP about Hell and Back Again. After the release of Canon's EOS 5D Mark II camera, which offers HD video capabilities, the former Associated Press photographer used it to shoot in Afghanistan. "I could already see that my traditional assignments from magazines and newspapers were drying out - almost overnight," he told BJP.
"Now I finally had a tool with which I could convey the aesthetics of stills into video. Previously your cameras, at least the ones you could use in the field, had a very distinct video look and feel. I also wanted to experiment with a new medium. The images I was making weren't incredibly different. I wasn't really pushing myself in terms of what I was trying to convey from these conflicts. It was a way of trying to connect what I was witnessing on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the public perception of these wars at home.
"You can almost predict what images will be used when there's a news story coming out of Afghanistan. There was a kind of sanitation of the battlefield, in part by photographers and the media, but also the military, to portray something that's really quite clean. I wanted to try showing something new by moving into films."
See a trailer of Hell and Back Again:
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