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SXSW 2021: “In the Same Breath”


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Rating: 4 out of 5.

There is no need for watching documentaries or news channels to realize the colossal failure in leadership, not just when the first signs of COVID-19 were ignored, but also when it so easily spread across the globe. There is no question that neither has it ever been contained nor even authentically tried. How did it all start? What are the events that led to the 21st century’s major outbreak? “In the Same Breath” may not be the one to give us all the information that we would need to hold someone accountable, but it’s close enough to demand us to sit and think through it.

After “One Child Nation”, acclaimed filmmaker Nanfu Wang brings another damning subject into her documentary as she navigates the origin of COVID-19, and how it began spreading. The virus started to viciously affect people way back in 2019 when people in Wuhan started falling severely sick. While the Chinese government would assure the public and the world everything was under control, the virus was boarding planes and flying to multiple destinations, soon to become the biggest virus outbreak of the century.

It all started with arresting eight unnamed individuals which Wuhan Police announced were being punished for spreading rumors about an unknown kind of pneumonia. Those eight individuals were doctors. However, as you watch the well-documented “In the Same Breath”, it paints a dark image of people, with the help of hidden cameras, awfully sick on the streets of Wuhan, sleeping in parking lots of hospitals, until they either make it or not. Filmmaker brings up her personal story too when she had to send her son and husband back to the US, hoping the advanced western world can protect its citizens from such an outbreak.

That said, “In the Same Breath” is a powerful depiction of the spread of the virus, how it was being ignored in the place it originated and yet was ignored by the people in the western world. Instead of wearing masks, they would rather fall for conspiracy theories, believing the virus does not exist. Protests, protests and protests, while the virus, secretly, was infiltrating into populations and take away their last breath from them.

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