Hell and Back Again | 2011
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. Embedded in Echo Company during the assault, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis captures the frontline action. When Sergeant Harris returns home to North Carolina after a life-threatening injury in battle, the film evolves from a war exposé to the story of one man's personal apocalypse. With the love and support of his wife, Ashley, Harris struggles to overcome the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. In immense physical pain, Sergeant Harris grows addicted to his medication. His agony deepens as he attempts to reconcile the gulf between his experience of war and the terrifying normalcy of life at home. The two realities intertwine to communicate both the extraordinary drama of war and, for a generation of soldiers, the no less shocking experience of returning home.