Cunningham at film premiere

May 14, 2014
Former Waldo County resident Michael Cunningham is pictured doing Q&A at the 2010 “Restrepo” premiere in San Antonio.

Little Rock, Ark. — Sgt. Michael Cunningham, who grew up in Morrill and Belfast, will share Q&A duties with fellow Battle Company veteran Jason Mace at the premiere screening of “Korengal,” a Kickstarter-funded follow-up to Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington’s Oscar-nominated “Restrepo,” Saturday, May 17, at the Little Rock Film Festival.

Battle Company — the 2nd-503rd, Battle Co., of the 173rd Airborne — is the most famous platoon of the War in Afghanistan, for an infamous reason: its relative handful of troops, out of the 70,000 soldiers in country, went through 20 percent of the fighting. The platoon was the subject of several “Frontline” documentaries, magazine articles, National Geographic specials and more. Battle Company produced the first Medal of Honor recipient, Sal Giunto, since Vietnam.

Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm," and Hetherington, a photojournalist from Great Britain, were embedded for a year, beginning in June 2007, of Battle Company’s 15-month deployment in The Valley of Death — the Korengal Valley in the Kunar Province of northeastern Afghanistan. Their 2010 "Restrepo" is a raw and as-it-happens documentary that won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film festival, as well as a number of other awards, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary.

“Tim and I often talked about making a follow-up to ‘Restrepo,’ but he was tragically killed in Libya two years ago, covering the civil war, and I was left on my own with the project,” said Junger on the new film’s website.

Junger directed “Korengal” using footage not used in “Restrepo.” The new film picks up where the first left off and attempts to explain how war works, what it feels like and what it does to the young men who fight it.

Due to Cunningham’s deployment, people in Waldo County provided support to Battle Company during its darkest days, holding drives that sent dozens and dozens of boxes of supplies to the soldiers, according to Marion Tucker-Honeycutt, Cunningham’s grandmother and a columnist for The Republican Journal.

“They ‘adopted’ the platoon — Troy Howard School also 'adopted' them — and Michael … addressed them there when home on leave during that deployment from hell,” she said.

Cunningham is now out of the service and lives in Austin. “Korengal” will open in New York City May 30 and in Los Angeles June 13. The movie will be available for digital download via korengalthemovie.com and online streaming in the fall.

“Korengal” features footage of Battle Company in Afghanistan’s so-called Valley of Death.
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Dagney C. Ernest
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
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Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for almost 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.

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