Pandemics in Movies: “They Bring us Together in our Vulnerability”

May 13, 2020

The tragedies found in movies regarding the spread of pandemics serve to remind us of our vulnerability as humans and can bring us together, cinema expert Richard Peña said during the Santiago Center-sponsored webinar “Pandemics in Cinema: Filming the ‘Invisible Enemy.’"

In a conversation with the Chilean film editor Andrea Chignoli (MFA'07),  Peña - a Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University and former Director of the New York Film Festival - referred to international movies including "Contagion" (U.S., 2011), "Flu" (South Korea, 2013) and "Virus" (India, 2019). “Contagion is now a mirror of our own daily experience,” he noted.

In “Contagion,” the reference to several cities around the world, including Hong Kong, London, Tokyo and Minneapolis, was a visual narrative signifying that there was a sense of connection through the spread of virus.

The specialist in film theory and international cinema said within the dichotomy of that which is visible with the invisible, these movies also serve to raise the curtain on underlying social problems in society. In the response to today’s Covid-19, “we’re telling the essential workers that they’re heroes, but they lack basic human rights such as health. That’s hypocrisy.”