A NEW DOCUMENTARY
On Saturday, January 13, 2018 at 8:07 a.m. local time, an emergency alert was issued in the state of Hawaii via television, radio, and mobile phone. On cellphones, it read, in capital letters, "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill." Scrolling across television screens or read on the radio, a longer warning was no less urgent or credible. It included the statements: "The U.S. Pacific Command has detected a missile threat to Hawaii. A missile may impact on land or sea within minutes. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
For the next 38 minutes, until a second message announced that the first had indeed been a false alarm, residents and visitors in the "Paradise of the Pacific" had good reason to believe that the alert
was legitimate. In addition to the unambiguous alerts, many Hawaiians live with the haunting awareness that Pearl Harbor is, as one interviewee in the documentary states, "right in my backyard" and many confess to feeling like "sitting ducks" in the middle of the ocean.
Even more disquieting, too, was the fact that, in the months leading up to that day, U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-Un, had exchanged increasingly fiery insults and threats. On July 4, 2017, a date that was clearly chosen to taunt the U.S., North Korea released a photograph of a ballistic missile test. Later in 2017, after being penalized by the United Nations for escalating its nuclear program, North Korea promised to take "thousands fold" revenge on the U.S. And then, a few months later, Hawaiians received word that a ballistic missile was on its way. Of course they would believe that it was real.
The short documentary THIS IS NOT A DRILL takes viewers inside those terrifying 38 minutes through intimate interviews with people who lived through them. Chilling surveillance footage, audio recordings, and cell phone videos are woven together with personal narratives and reflections to tell this story. In what they think are their final moments of life, an 8-year old girl asks her father if the country is at war. A priest grants general absolution to his congregants. A
pregnant woman wonders if she will ever be a mother. A teenager discloses his sexuality. A man suffers a massive heart attack. These are just a sampling of the people we meet, and with whom we feel a sense of kinship, in THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
We feel connected to them because THIS IS NOT A DRILL is more than a presentation of a particular and peculiar historical event; it invites viewers to consider what a near-death experience might teach them about their own lives and relationships. If you had 20 minutes to live, what would you do? Whose number would you call? In short, THIS IS NOT A DRILL illustrates that Hawaii deserves its nickname as the "Aloha State;" "Aloha," after all, means love and the stories here are centered in love for friends, family, and even for this exquisitely beautiful part of the world.
In today's world, when the global pandemic, economic recession, and political unrest can make us feel unsettled but also has heightened our awareness of our own values, convictions, and loves, THIS IS NOT A DRILL provides a welcome break, a clarifying exercise of being asked, and seeing how others respond to the question: "How do I want to live the rest of my life?"
In 38 minutes, precisely the amount of time that Hawaiians experienced the missile alert, Keiko and Rob Feldman's new documentary tells the layered, moving stories of people in sudden crisis. What's more, we learn that, when the false alarm is issued, people don't go back to their "normal" lives, but are forever changed by this confrontation with their mortality. They tell stories of how this little moment, these excruciatingly long 38 minutes, truly changed their lives. After a pandemic, we might find that we've asked the same kinds of questions and come to the same conclusion that so many of those who are interviewed in this documentary do: Tomorrow is never promised to us and what really matters is the people we love.ll stories of how this little moment, these excruciatingly long 38 minutes, truly changed their lives. After a pandemic, we might find that we've asked the same kinds of questions and come to the same conclusion that so many of those who are interviewed in this documentary do: Tomorrow is never promised to us and what really matters is the people we love.