Film­maker looks at A Good Day To Die


A war pho­tog­ra­pher’s mul­ti­ple near-death ex­pe­ri­ences have been ex­plored in a doc­u­men­tary by an Auck­land film­maker.

Por­tuguese born Harold Mon­fils has di­rected A Good Day To Die: Hoka Hey, a film which ex­am­ines the career of war pho­to­jour­nal­ist Ja­son P. Howe.

English born Howe sur­vived 12 years on the front­line of four wars doc­u­ment­ing conflicts in Colom­bia, Afghanistan, Le­banon and Iraq, go­ing to ex­treme lengths to sur­vive.

‘‘Ja­son Howe’s life reads like the ad­ven­tures of Tintin, if Tintin was a war pho­tog­ra­pher his name would be Ja­son P.Howe,’’ Mon­fils said.

Howe has now re­tired from war jour­nal­ism and is liv­ing in Spain ‘‘deal­ing with a very dark view of the world,’’ Mon­fils said.

Be­gin­ning pro­duc­tion in 2010, Mon­fils said it began as a two year project but turned into a six year jour­ney with Howe.

‘‘I didn’t just want to por­tray his in­cred­i­ble port­fo­lio of work, what I did is I used his work to tell a story,’’ Mon­fils said.

‘‘It al­lows you to get closer to him. Rather than get­ting other peo­ple’s work to tell his story, I used his work.’’

The ti­tle Hoka Hey is de­rived from a tat­too Howe has on the in­side of his arm.

Mon­fils said Howe orig­i­nally heard it was a Na­tive Amer­i­can term for ‘‘let’s roll’.

How­ever when work­ing in Columbia he learned it also meant ‘‘a good day to die.’’

‘‘He’s been very lucky be­cause he has missed some in­cred­i­ble mo­ments of life that [if he was] four me­tres for­ward or in a slightly dif­fer­ent po­si­tion he would have been killed or maimed.’’

In one in­stance in Colom­bia Howe was nearly blown up by a bus that gueril­las had left as a road­block rigged with ex­plo­sives.

Another time in Afghanistan he saw a Bri­tish sol­dier have his legs blown off by a road­side bomb.

Mon­fils said the pho­tos from this in­ci­dent went on to spark con­tro­versy from the Bri­tish Min­istry of Defence as they didn’t want them to be pub­lished.

‘‘It takes a lot for a story to get out and it takes a per­son like Ja­son P. Howe to go against the grain and in­sist on pub­lish­ing these pic­tures.’’

A Good Day to Die screens May 29 and June 4 at the Q Theatre as part of the Doc­u­men­tary Edge Fes­ti­val.

Film­maker Harold Mon­fils is now liv­ing in Auck­land af­ter a 30 year in­ter­na­tional ad­ver­tis­ing career.

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