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Hot Docs 2023: Qs à la mode with… Matthew Hashiguchi (The Only Doctor)

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Director Matthew Hashiguchi profiles Dr. Karen Kinsell, a dedicated physician providing health care to the underserved residents of one of Georgia’s poorest rural communities, in The Only Doctor. We posed our Qs à la mode to Matthew, and here’s what he shared!

If I had to describe my film using only three adjectives, they would be: Determined. Revealing. Intimate.

I decided to make this film because: I’m a resident of Georgia and the access to, and the quality of, its healthcare system affects everyone within its borders, whether it’s rural or urban. My wife and I were preparing to start a family in 2018 and at that time Georgia had the highest maternal mortality rate in the U.S., and that terrified me. So, we were facing these healthcare concerns and I felt that one way to prepare for it would be to make a documentary on it. It initially began as a story about maternal health, but I gradually came to realize that I wasn’t the best person to tell that story. I had read an interview with Dr. Kinsell about maternal health in rural regions, and that’s how I learned about her. I eventually learned about the absence of healthcare in her region, and her being the only doctor, and decided to change the focus of the film to her work.

The thing that surprised me most about my film’s subject/topic was: How broken, inefficient, neglectful and ineffective our healthcare system is, and that in parts of the United States it may not exist at all or will have to be provided by a volunteer. Being one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. should be able to ensure that its citizens can see a doctor if they need to.

My favorite moment/scene/sequence in my film is: When Dr. Kinsell demolishes the columns in the front of her clinic. I thought that was a good metaphor for her view of the U.S. healthcare system.

The most challenging part of making my film was: Editing. It was a grueling process, and it was a challenge to balance a personal, human story with healthcare information. Healthcare policy is dense and at times confusing, and I didn’t want to bore or lecture an audience on things like Medicaid vs. Medicare, or laws, so we focused on the personal stories that could introduce some healthcare policy. But at its heart, it’s not about healthcare, it’s about the desire to live a happy, healthy life… the American Dream.

My most invaluable piece of doc-making gear was/is: Zoom lens and wireless lavalier system. I tried to disappear in the examination rooms and those tools helped me get closer to the doctor/patient conversation without intruding on their space.

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice I’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is: Learn how to write.

Want to check out Matthew’s film, or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!

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