T the filmmakers behind Convergence: Courage in a Crisis set out to make a documentary about the pandemic, not politics. But separating the pandemic from politics can be as difficult as convincing your anti-vaccine aunt to log off from Facebook.
Director Orlando von Einsiedel, alongside an array of co-directors spread across the globe from the United States to India, has started to collaborate on the kaleidoscopic film in early April of last year. They captured the uncertainty and chaos, the apocalyptic void of blockages and the people who mobilized to help their communities; not only medical staff in underfunded and overwhelmed health systems in places like Lima and London, but also those who have stepped up to ease their burden.
In Wuhan, vlogger Wenhua Lin jumps into his car with PPE and lots of disinfectant to transport the peoplemedical, because the government had not yet understood public transport during the full lockdown. In São Paulo, event planner Renata Alves rides a shotgun in the local ambulance, guiding the driver through her community in the Paraisopolis favela like a human GPS. These were the kind of stories Von Einsiedel wanted to focus on, but models and policies emerged.
"We started to focus on stories in places where the pandemic was most severe, "said Von Einsiedel, speaking to The Guardian on Zoom alongside one of his co-directors, Hassan Akkad." We tend to find that these were also countries with more populist rulers. And those populist rulers politicized the virus, which made its struggle very difficult. "
The world leaders to whom Von Einsiedel referserence include Donald Trump, former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Briton Boris Johnson, Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro and Indian Narendra Modi, who were all light on blockades and heavy on nationalist sentiments, allowing cultural wars to take hold. spread on masks and vaccines. And the resulting devastation is prominent in Convergence: from the exhausted faces of a couple absorbing a huge loss in Tehran to horrific screams as bodies are cremated on the streets of India.
Finally, the conversations in the film turn to how state decisions reverberate and hit the marginalized hardest, whether it is socio-economic factors that determine the makeup frontline staff across the world, water shortages in Paraisopolis preventing good hygiene among the less fortunate during the pandemic or the way anti-racismblack is revealed through the economy, the health care system and on the streets before the murder of George Floyd makes it a galvanizing problem. "You realize that in fact the pandemic is not the main problem," Akkad says. "The pandemic has only revealed the failures of our governments, how our health systems are underfunded and the level of inequality that exists in our societies.
Akkad is an activist and filmmaker who fled Syria in 2015 after being imprisoned and tortured by Bashar al-Assad's regime. He recorded his escape to the UK, which was featured in the BBC series Exodus: Our Journey to Europe. As the pandemic set in last year, Akkad began to document another life-changing crisis. "I just picked up my phone and was just documenting neighborhoods, shop signs, newspaper front pages, empty shelves," Akk says.ad, adding that he felt the need to do more soon after.
He accepted a job as an NHS cleaner, disinfecting them. Covid-19 services at Whipps Cross Hospital in London. He saved his time there, working alongside other immigrant employees who put their lives on the line for minimum wage. During this period, Boris Johnson announced a mourning program for foreign NHS staff who died from Covid-19, granting their loved ones indefinite leave to stay in the UK. But this policy did not apply to low-paid housekeepers, porters and social workers until Akkad recorded his disappointment in an emotional video that went viral on Twitter.
Convergence links Akkad 's experience to those captured by other co-directors in containment. "From the start, it seemed to me that this film had to be a global collaboration," said Von Einsiedel, who initially intended to find a uniform aesthetic across continents, but quickly embraced the content shot on professional cameras and camera phones. . In addition to the aforementioned stories, the film follows a couple going through a Covid-era pregnancy in India and a doctor in Lima approaching the camera of the tragedy and fighting for survival in their intensive care unit.
Convergence also focuses on Dr. Armen Henderson, internist at the University of Miami Health System. In April last year, Henderson was handcuffed outside his own home by a police officer who assumed he was throwing trash out of a pickup truck. Henderson says he was actually loading the van with supplies such as tents ands PPE for the homeless community. When not fighting the virus in the hospital, Henderson volunteers to perform Covid tests and provide support in the camps. His police detention took place just a month before George Floyd's murder.
There is a lot of difficulty to display, between the pandemic and social inequalities that she revealed, but the movie-creators also look for the little joys and humor that makes people move forward. The film features ICU doctor Rosa Lua Lopez in Lima wearing her Covid safety gear a Teletubby outfit, just before going into battle. Alves in São Paulo treats a Covid test like a pregnancy test, telling a doctor to be relieved that she is not pregnant yet. And at Whipps Cross, Akkad takes the camera with him to capture the intimacy and camaraderie between his colleagues during lunch breaks. “People described thefrontline workers like heroes, ”Akkad says. “I wanted to humanize my colleagues; show that despite the horror and the level of uncertainty and all this chaos, these people are having lunch and making jokes. They are scared at times, but there are also times when they giggle and laugh. "
The film also seeks notes of hope in several musical numbers, pairing covers of songs people uploaded to social media from their rooms during lockdown with montages of shared experiences, echoing each other from around the world. One of Convergence's numbers is a full song era of the pandemic, which the director admits makes a distinction between wellness and everything Gal Gadot and his famous wealthy friends were doing when they shared a collaborative video portraying John's Imagine Lennon. "There were some that weren't so trivial," says Von Einsie.del, when I reminded him of what people thought of celebrities living in spacious, well-appointed homes sharing a weak sense of oneness with the rest of the world in the early stages of containment. “Some of them were really beautiful because they are people who share, sing and get together. We felt this was an important part of the pandemic to include. "
Akkad agrees:" It reminds you of what 99% of the population was doing. Everyone's online, singing covers or making leaven. Watching the movie made me breathe. "
- Convergence: Courage in a Crisis hits theaters October 8 and Netflix October 12