M.Making a documentary that strives to tell the story of the coronavirus pandemic presents a litany of unique inherent challenges. That is to say: the preponderance of disinformation swirling around the topic, an area that embraces every country on the face of the earth, the difficulty of shooting without infecting the crew or the interviewees, an amplitude of crisis felt both at the highest institutional level that more intimately personal levels and the fact that no one knows if we are nearing the end, in an intermediate phase or if we are still working at the beginning. Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger̵
Choosing to tackle this topic at such an early stage feels a little opportunistic, the result of a race to get there first while everyone is heated over the contents of the coronavirus. (Though they wouldn’t even win on that front, having already been beaten by Ai Weiwei’s generally superior CoroNation.) But the three contributors aspire to full coverage when they break down the segment of storytelling they have to work with. and pack all the information that can hold two hours. The infuriating thing is that anyone who doesn’t know most of Gibney’s usual essay-style bullet points to begin with will likely be inclined to dismiss them as the same anti-Trump propaganda spewed out by reputable media, scientists, and other fake news sources. Perhaps future generations lacking the perspective provided by the past seven months will find it uplifting, even if, once again, they would probably prefer a relationship that doesn’t end before it ends.
The most illuminating material arrives in the first half hour and changes as the film delves into the details of the less covered preliminary period. The only credited writer Gibney uses South Korea as a parallel at every juncture in the American quagmire, the prepared and responsible Gallant with the reckless, selfish and corrupt Goofus of the West. In the first few months, the Korean Center for Disease Control models the correct answer in its swift and decisive action to prevent and imprison the virus. Across the Pacific, the Trump administration goes to great lengths to thwart, curtail and neutralize the national CDC, ostensibly due to the president’s own attitude of contempt for science. Combine that with a call for xenophobia rooted in the idea that Covid is a Chinese issue for China to address, and states have fostered a terrible vulnerability that led to immediate disaster.
Gibney’s script collects a large volume of developments in a coherent timeline that pits the Trump White House against independent agencies dedicated to protecting the public; the mandate to project a positive image against the expanding hell of reality. Access proves to be a fundamental resource, producer connections offer us a front row seat for cascading political failures. Trump is giving away plum contracts to underqualified companies run by his friends, then delegating the crisis response to his lackey Jared Kushner.
This is where things go well, as a member of his task force terminates his nondisclosure agreement to tell his time in a Mickey Mouse operation of extraordinary incompetence. Although Max Kennedy showed up as a volunteer eager to assist the experts, he soon discovered that he was expected to do so. to be the expert, made a staff on site despite zero experience or know-how. Their work goals were unclear and, in fact, unimportant. The handful of times he met Fema employees who he thought would run the venue, he realized that what he and his colleagues were doing or not doing couldn’t care less. It was all for show.
The essence of the film lies in that empty display of authority, a key axis in Trump’s doctrine of going through government movements while accumulating private wealth and massaging one’s ego. We have been shown that Korea is able to overcome this largely unscathed cataclysm, while the death toll continues to rise on the other side of the world. Gibney and Co. postulate the president’s vain mismanagement as a differentiator, hardly a revelation even if presented with more maddening immediacy than newsprint can handle. That said, there are less educational ways to raise your blood pressure for two hours, and Twitter-refreshing masochists who feed on a steady drop of maddening headlines will have plenty to aspire to. Starting with the giggle title, this tortuous rehash of yesterday’s story seems to be everything to them.