A NOTE FROM THE DIRECTOR
WE ALMOST MISSED OUR FLIGHT. It was early, maybe 5:00 a.m., just another day of filming on another neighbor island; the kind of exhausted day when you find yourself on auto pilot. Until the moment you step behind the camera, it’s hard to understand how involved making a movie is. How a thousand little details mean everything. And so it was that morning, when I saw through bleary eyes that we were about to fly to the wrong town, with no time to make the correct flight. It was in that moment that I realized filmmaking is not only a surreal experience, it’s one you have to love deeply in order to make it through mornings like that.
When this film was first proposed, I wasn’t very interested in doing it. Health care documentaries can be dark and scary things. The sky, after all, is falling. The health care system is collapsing and everyone is trying to fix something that seems on the surface to be beyond repair.
So, to make a film about social ‘determinants’ - one of those words that sounds vague but also ominous - and tell people that in order to be healthy we had to address... Poverty? Homelessness? Equity? Education? Now that was a scary idea.
Ultimately, it was the people who appear in our film that changed my perspective. I came to realize very quickly that what these heroes are doing in their towns is more than just affecting social issues or the health of people who live there. They are showing us, by example, the simple power of communities to heal themselves.
It is a privilege to live among the gifts that make Hawai‘i such a unique, special place, and I wanted to ensure that this film was a love letter to our islands; culturally, visually, and emotionally. Because of those gifts, in the midst of scarcity we found abundance, in the midst of anguish we found joy, and in the midst of hardship we found hope. We found that health is everything.
I admire and have deep affection for everyone who welcomed us into their communities and into their lives. I hope we’ve done justice to their work while telling a compelling story about how interdependent we are. I am also eternally grateful to my dedicated crew, without whom this simply would not have been possible.
In the end, we were able to get on the correct flight that morning. Which means that somehow, the Universe wanted to get this film made. It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle, or to have lightning strike twice but, with your help, perhaps we can do this again.
MATTHEW NAGATO, DIRECTOR