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.” For the next 38 minutes, until a second message announced that the first had been a false alarm, residents and visitors had good reason to believe that the alert was legitimate. In the months leading up to that day, President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, had exchanged increasingly fiery insults and threats. “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 2020, when the global pandemic, economic recession, and political unrest can make us feel unsettled and more aware 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?” 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.
Directed by Robert Feldman and Keiko Feldman (USA)