VOD film review: A Good Day To Die (Hoka Hey)
Ruby | On 02, Aug 2017
Director: Harold Monfils
Cast: Jason P. Howe, Catherine Philp, Roger Arnold, Eros Hoagland, Roger Arnold, Tim Page
Watch A Good Day to Die online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / eir Vision Movies / Google Play
This documentary about conflict-photographer Jason P. Howe charts his story from the frontline of wars in Columbia, Iraq and Afghanistan and the effect on the man himself. We are thrust straight into the action in Helmand Province during the conflict in 2011. This is where we meet Jason, an award-winning photographer embedded with the British Army on the front line in Afghanistan. He opens detailing an incident that he witnessed to the British troops on a foot patrol; a horrendous injury to a British soldier, who stepped on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device), which eventually hit the headlines in the media many months later. Even though Jason had the permission from the injured soldier, there was opposition from the Ministry of Defence. This film starts with that brutal honesty as its subject matter, so don’t expect a neat and tidy side-stepping of reality.
We then go back to where it all started for Jason, in Colombia, with a decades-old conflict between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the government. He and other contributors to the film – war photographers, cameramen and correspondents at the time – relive their stories about Jason the man and Jason the photographer. What might be a documentary of testosterone-fuelled stories is delivered quickly and even-handedly, providing a balanced snapshot of their experiences. In this narrow existence, the lines are blurred between the professional and personal, although the consequences of life at the sharp end of photo journalism are in full focus. Jason befriends and has a relationship with woman involved with FARC, only to find out, later, the truth behind the mask.
Writer/director Harold Monfils met Jason in 2010 and decided to document his life stories and Jason’s journalistic journey in Colombia, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan; a 12-year voyage along the frontline of these war-torn countries. And then to now, and how Jason feels about his former life almost posthumously, and the effects it still has on him today. Looking back, Jason then and Jason now are quite different creatures; shaped by his experiences, many tough lessons have brought him to a polar opposite place in life.
This is a well-brought together collage of Jason’s life, although you feel there is much more simmering just beneath the surface that is yet to be excavated. The brutal honesty about the excitement felt during these episodes, as well as the detrimental after-effects of war and witnessing those horrors, are told, alongside the eventual disillusionment with what it takes to get the all-compassing photograph of conflict.