Heroes need a hand: PAAFF documentary, ‘Corridor Four’ looks at mental health of 9/11 first responders

When the black smoke overtook the Pentagon on 9/11, a bellowing voice broke through the dark void: "Head toward my voice.” William Wayne Sinclair and others who followed the spoken words found safety, while so many others did not.Suffering from…

When the black smoke overtook the Pentagon on 9/11, a bellowing voice broke through the dark void: “Head toward my voice.” William Wayne Sinclair and others who followed the spoken words found safety, while so many others did not.

Suffering from second-and-third-degree burns, Sinclair sought and found the man belonging to the voice that rescued him  – Isaac Hoopii, an officer in the Pentagon Police Department’s canine bomb detection unit. Hoopii was credited with carrying and guiding out at least 16 people that day.

The story of the Hawaiian-born officer with the lifesaving voice – who also sang in the cultural Aloha Boys band – caught national media attention. But what wasn’t covered is that someone needed to save Hoopii.

“Did I do enough? Did I help enough people?,” asked Hoopii in Corridor Four, a feature-length documentary depicting the events of that fateful day. With his memory still trapped inside the walls of the Pentagon, Hoopii opens up about the ongoing trauma he witnessed and the power of music and family that kept him alive.

Showing on the last day of the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival (PAAFF), Nov. 8-18, the documentary takes a rare look at mental health among 9/11 first responders, and the many experiencing severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hoopii is also scheduled to be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening.

The documentary has been circulating the film festival circuit since last year, winning “Best Documentary Feature” at the Washington West Film Festival and “Best in Show” at the Rosebud Film Festival. As an independent film, Tringali and his wife Maria Bissell, producer of Corridor Four, do not believe the film will be released in mainstream theaters but will come out to the public in some form next year.  

“The profession that they have is that they are supposed to help people, they are the ones supposed to be the assistance,” said Stephen Tringali, the documentary’s director and cinematographer. “[You] feel like maybe you’re inadequate at your job if you have to say, ‘But I am supposed to be the person going in and helping out.’ You are supposed to be seen as this strong individual who can tackle all of these issues.”

Tringali recalled at past screenings, medical responders identifying with the movie, recognizing their own battles with PTSD projected on the screen.

More police officers and firefighters committed suicide last year than were killed in the line of duty, according to a white paper report  from the Ruderman Family Foundation. In 2017, at least 103 firefighters and 140 police officers committed suicide, while 93 firefighters and 129 police officers died in the line of duty.

“I just hope that this movie will help other people going through a hard time,” said Hoopii in a conversation with PW. “Corridor Four really focuses on how family can be a great support system and help as a coping mechanism.”

During filming, as Hoopii realized the positive impact his story could have on others, he began to introduce Tringali to other officers in his department so that they could share their narratives as well.

“Everybody [Hoopii] worked with, there were different versions or different shades of this mental health story. Not everyone’s trauma looks the same and it manifests itself in different ways,” said Tringali. “It might not manifest immediately after, it might happen years later. [But that] also means that treatment can look different too.”

Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival | Nov. 8-18. Prices vary. Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St. phillyasianfilmfest.org/

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Other PAAFF Films

Among the nearly 50 screening events of compelling films being featured at the eleventh annual PAAFF, here are five movies you won’t want to miss.

In the Life of Music

The festival’s opening film, In the Life of Music chronicles the generational impact of the song “Champa Battambang,” a song made famous by Sinn Sisamuth (the King of Khmer Music). The three-chaptered tale sews together the division of time through music as the political party Khmer Rouge comes into power in Cambodia. Director Caylee So, Producer praCh Ly, and other members of the film are scheduled for a post-film Q&A, followed by an opening reception. | Nov. 8. 7pm. Lightbox Film Center, 3701 Chestnut St. paaff.gala-engine.com/2018/films/in-the-life-of-music/

Fiction and Other Realities

After his father’s death, Korean American Bobby Choy plays his sad songs in his bathtub. When a singer hears him play, he invites Choy on the road for his band’s upcoming tour. The twenty-something Choy agrees and goes on the tour, making a stop in Seoul, his parents’ homeland. Choy will be giving a post-film Q&A and will be performing during the Musical Showcase. | Nov. 10. 7:35pm. Lightbox Film Center, 3701 Chestnut St. paaff.gala-engine.com/2018/films/american-story-norman-mineta-his-legacy/

Ulam: Main Dish

More than yummy dishes, Ulam: Main Dish is a documentary that narrates the culinary movement of Filipino cuisine into American culture. Showcasing award-winning chefs of Filipino food, Filipino-American filmmaker Alexandra Cuerdo brings up issues of identity and acceptance. The festival’s centerpiece movie, director Cuerdo will be present for a post-film Q&A followed by a reception featuring Filipino food. | Nov. 11. 6:15pm. Lightbox Film Center, 3701 Chestnut St. paaff.gala-engine.com/2018/films/ulam-main-dish/

Call Her Ganda

Three women seek justice after a U.S. Marine murders Jennifer Laude, a Filipina trans woman. In this geopolitical investigative exposé, Call Her Ganda explores human rights and U.S. imperialism through the lens of personal tragedy. | Nov. 10. 3:30pm. Lightbox Film Center, 3701 Chestnut St.  gala-engine.com/2018/films/call-her-ganda/

An American Story: Norman Mineta & His Legacy

Norman Mineta was a man of firsts: he was the first Asian American mayor of a major city (San Jose, California) and the first Asian-American Cabinet member, having served under two U.S. presidents of different parties. But over a 20-year career in Congress, Mineta never forgot being forced into a U.S. World War II concentration camp as a child. In the Closing Night film, this documentary covers Mineta’s life and how, when in a position of power, he made sure what happened to him during the internment of Japanese Americans would not happen to any other ethnic or religious group, particularly after 9/11 as US Secretary of Transportation. Secretary Mineta is scheduled for a post-film Q&A with director Dianne Fukami. | Nov. 18. 7pm. Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St. paaff.gala-engine.com/2018/films/american-story-norman-mineta-his-legacy/