SUNDANCE REVIEW – “In the Same Breath
We are undeniably about to get a slew of COVID-related media. Whether it’s dramatized series about the pandemic from different points of view, stories that are just set with the pandemic in the backdrop, or the countless amount of documentaries on COVID-19. I’m already a little exhausted by that reality that we’ll have to live through for the next few years, because as if it isn’t hard enough to actually survive through a pandemic for the last 10 months of my life – I’ll have to consume it within my favorite art form. That being said, when it comes to documentary filmmaking – I think I can make an exception when it comes to stuff like In the Same Breath, because it is just so transparent and honest within its documentation. It feels deeply personal yet wide in scope to the entire, worldwide pandemic.
Directed by Nanfu Wang, who previously directed One Child Nation, the film follows both the handling of the pandemic from the point of view of China as well as America. There is undeniably a huge focus on China’s handling of the virus here, as it was the place that the virus originated from. But the film is less about the specifics of “how” the virus got started and all the basics that we’ve heard on the news for the past several months, and instead is a film more about authoritarianism and how governments use the media we consume, whether its on our phones or televisions, to spread a false sense of hope for something that’s truly not getting any better.
The film feels extra personal, as Wang throws in her own experience with the virus and frustrations of being stuck between China and America. Like many of us, she was someone who believed everything was being exaggerated until it hit the U.S. alarmingly fast. The film is completely sympathetic to the citizens of each country and deeply critical of each government, and how they go hand-in-hand on covering up cases and important pieces of news that could’ve prevented it from spreading in the first place. It’s a heart-wrenching but eye-opening documentary that has genuine personality and well-intentioned aggression that I thought was much-needed after weeks of seeing media about “good news”; the film will be streaming on HBO later this year.