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The Only Doctor

Directed by Matthew Hashiguchi
Documentary Feature
United States | 78 min | 2023

For the past 15 years, Dr. Karen Kinsell, a compassionate, yet no-nonsense physician, has been the only doctor in Clay County, Georgia, a rural region along the Georgia-Alabama border, and one of the poorest counties in the nation.

After working without pay for several years, Dr. Kinsell can no longer afford to volunteer full time and may close her clinic. Knowing all too well that she’s the only healthcare for many residents, she begins a journey of twists and turns towards a solution so that she can continue serving her patients in Clay County.

A prayer-answering partnership with a medical school appears, but a difference in motives places it at risk. Then Covid-19 arrives, adding additional strain upon her medical practice and her patients’ health. But amidst the uncertainty, unexpected opportunities arise, providing Dr. Kinsell and her patients with answered prayers and the ability to fight another day.

For the Apassingok family, this is extremely personal. It’s a story about their family, their son, their daughter, their nephew and niece and the way in which attacks from animal rights activists almost destroyed him, their family, and their way of life, a culture that stretches back thousands of years.

For me, Jim Wickens, it’s intensely personal as well, but ironically, for totally different reasons. I am an environmental activist, who for the last two decades has been fighting around the globe to protect animal rights and fight against hunting wildlife. I created the first environmental investigation agency called Ecostorm. But in recent years, I’ve become deeply uncomfortable with the racist rhetoric that I feel is embedded within conservation narratives, whereby people of color who depend upon subsistence hunting practices are all too often demonized and blamed for the environmental problems of the world.

When I heard about the attacks on Chris by Paul Watson and his armchair activists, that was the final straw. It was time to act. I reached out to Susan Apassingok on the other side of the world, openly disclosing my activist past, and asked if we could meet and discuss making a film together. It took a while to build relationships and garner trust, but together with my partner Pete Chelkowski, we quickly became the unlikeliest of friends.

That was four years ago. This film for us is about reaching beyond polarization and across ideological divides to find better ways to listen and work together as human beings.

We also undertook a seismic shift in production protocol, working to phase out a hierarchical system for a more lateral one, where everyone’s voice counts. It is important to acknowledge that the narrative for the film is steered and ultimately decided by Native voices within or in close proximity to the village of Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island.

This is a film made by a community, determined to build Yupik cultural power and voice in northwest Alaska: a mix of Siberian Yupiks from St. Lawrence Island, an Alaska Native from the mainland, two Americans from the Lower 48, a Canadian and a Brit. We are Aakapak Apassingok and children Agra and Nalu Apassingok, Yaari Toole Walker, M. Watanabe Milmore, Pete Chelkowski, Jim Wickens, Dewey Hoffman, and Justine Nagan. It has been a collaborative effort, a joining of skills and talents. Pete Chelkowski and Jim Wickens were given the privileged invitation by the Apassingok family to act as directors on their story but since ultimately this has been a co-creation the final credits are still being determined. For now, we are saying Directed by Pete Chelkowski and Jim Wickens

The Only Doctor - Poster

The Only Doctor - Matthew Hashiguchi

Matthew Hashiguchi
Director

Matthew Hashiguchi’s first feature-length documentary, Good Luck Soup, was broadcast nationally on PBS World’s America ReFramed, received a 2016 Documentary Fund Award from the Center for Asian American Media and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, premiered at the 2016 Cleveland International Film Festival, received an award for Best Local Documentary at the 2016 Chagrin Documentary Film Festival and also features a web-based, interactive documentary and a virtual reality documentary. His film work has screened at the Atlanta Film Festival, New Orleans Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Heartland Film Festival and has also been published in The New York Times and The Washington Post. In addition to filmmaking, Matthew is an Assistant Professor in Multimedia Film & Production at Georgia Southern University.

Film Information

Director: Matthew Hashiguchi
Country: United States
Year: 2023
Language: English
Runtime: 78 min
Rated:  PG

Credits

Producer: Matthew Hashiguchi, Anjanette Levert
Editor: Matthew Hashiguchi,
Cinematographer: Matthew Hashiguchi
Sound Design: Billy Wirasnik
Composer: Buck St. Thomas

Connect With This Film

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival