By: Amanda Guarragi
In the Same Breath directed by Nanfu Wang, accurately highlights the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wang navigates the spread of the pandemic from Wuhan to the United States and compares both countries. She starts with the rumours that began to spread in early December 2019, that there was a different strand of SARS. Doctors advised those who knew about the strand to keep quiet. It wasn’t until mid January that cases for the coronavirus were confirmed.
Wang visually captured the grand scale of the pandemic by showing how large these cities were. That is what got to me the most, the fact that there were thousands of people in a city of that scale and they couldn’t be saved. Whether it was Wuhan or New York City, there are thousands of people confined to these small living spaces. Wang and her family travelled to Wuhan to celebrate Chinese New Year with her mother and shortly after, the virus spread. The fact that Wang had to send her husband and child away, to the United States, while she stayed back and cared for her parents, was heartbreaking.
She also showed the overflow of the hospitals and how traumatized health care professionals were from the outbreak. The government stepped in and took control of the media the second the outbreak began. They needed to control the narrative and control what journalists were spreading. They also had to prepare for any negative press that could come from Western media. What Wang showed in the hospital rooms was difficult to watch, she did not shy away from showing the virus for what it was. It was also important to have these open discussions with healthcare workers because so much of their trauma is being repressed, in order for them to keep going.
In the Same Breath is a necessary watch and compares how two countries handled the same pandemic. There are two different governments being compared and in regards to the United States, two very different perceptions of the virus. At the end, we see Wuhan celebrating New Years Eve 2021, all crammed together in an open space. Although that scene is extremely hopeful for other countries, this pandemic affected so much more and we will continue to see change as the year goes on. This is a great watch and will show how this pandemic was handled in the most detailed way possible.