A Good Day To Die – Hoka Hey (2016)

In the fascinating documentary A Good Day To Die – Hoka Hey, Harold Monfils examines what drives award-winning photojournalist Jason Howe to risk his life in war zones.

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by Alexa Dalby

A Good Day To Die – Hoka Hey

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Starting with an extraordinary video sequence of a group of British soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan and the triggering of an explosive device, the film takes us straight into the life of Jason Howe, the photojournalist embedded with them. How do you balance reporting on the carnage and the suffering, the film asks, and can you still have human feelings?

A Good Day To Die tries to find out what drives Jason to take the risks he does, skipping next to his time living with FARC guerrillas in Colombia, then to Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon – he was drawn to a slew of war zones. Unlike other journalists who limited their time to weeks, he would stay for months. In the end, the stress of living in a state of constant alert for his life took its toll on him.

Along the way, the film charts Jason’s accidental relationship with a female assassin, but most of all his obsession with telling the stories of the people he photographs, regardless of what side they are on – not just getting pictures of “guys with guns” but also the civilians, which has won him many awards. There’s a chance to see many of his striking pictures, interspersed with film of Jason following up the story of the wounded British soldier that started the film. Interviews come from his peers – fellow photojournalists Eros Hoagland, Hector Emanuel, Seamus Conlan (now his agent) and correspondents Catherine Philp and Karen Maron, plus the doyen of photojournalists who inspired Jason’s choice of career, Tim Page.

And what does that obsession do to the person? As one of his friends comments, “I’d go anywhere with Jason except to a cocktail party.” There’s only so long that anyone can live the sort of life Jason lived before they burn out and the documentary is a fascinating insight in one man’s mindset.

Picture credit: Jason Howe

A Good Day To Die – Hoka Hey is released on 16 June 2017 in cinemas in the UK and on demand by Bulldog Film distribution.

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