A Canadian filmmaker has been documenting the pandemic evolving and is now ready for the release of his 63 minutes-long feature, entitled ‘Corona’.
According to NY Times, Mostafa Keshvari finished his thriller depicting the horror of the growing pandemic just before the massive lockdowns. And yes, it is the first film about the COVID-19 pandemic. And yes x2 – it was finished before the pandemic is over.
In the era of digital everything, film industry is going through heavy transformation. First of all, you don’t need a big budget – or even the studio backing – to make a film. Grab a camera, download an app, and there you go. So, in 2020, Sean Baker’s Tangerine (2015) – first film ever shot on an iPhone – isn’t as revolutionary as it was back then.
The hunger for accessibility meets the supply through apps and low-cost equipment. If you want to go full-Wiseau, and buy yourself a whole studio – go ahead, but films today need urgency to gain traction. Urgency is the key, the secret ingredient. There are numerous examples of how much of an issue urgency is. Moonlight (2016) won an Oscar in the times when anti-racist, anti-LGBT movements were on the rise. Even this year’s winner Parasite (2019) has beaten competition thanks to its complex (and modern) social context.
Mostafa Keshvari won’t, probably, win an Oscar for ‘Corona’. But the filmmaker has a chance of making himself a name amidst the news.
‘Corona’, the first thriller about the epidemic outbreak
What Mostafa Keshvari has managed to do is, indeed, a milestone. Usually, films depicting real-life tragedies took some time to develop. It’s been the case of 9/11. It took five years for cinema to tackle this topic, and handle it with proper emotional preparation. And nobody managed to direct a film with that much urgency before.
Why? Well, things happen much faster in 2020.
Mostafa Keshvari, a 33-years old filmmaker from Vancouver, directed his coronavirus-themed film while observing the events unfolding. If that’s not the definition of real-time filmmaking, nothing else will be.
‘Corona’ follows a bunch of strangers, who are all shut-in inside an elevator. The horror for them begins when one exhibits rather clear symptoms of the virus infection. According to Keshvari, this is ‘a study of society, people and moral choices.’ As the director admitted, that was a light-speed tempo for production, and they started in January after two weeks of scriptwriting. ‘We rented a space and we built an elevator‘, he commented.
Due to the short period between the shoot and preparation, ‘Corona’ is often improvised by the actors. They were to imagine the coronavirus’ presence in the elevator. Further cost-cutting meant a single take – ‘My struggle was to make sure it was all one shot‘, explained the filmmaker. More attempts, but less editing too.
The city setting is vital as well. Many immigrants live in the city of Vancouver, and its hotpot of cultures serves as a great canvas to work with. In ‘Corona’, the virus serves as a metaphor for racism, and how people reveal their true selves. And as of March 2020, there isn’t a more frightening horror to imagine than getting infected.
COVID-19 and its future in films
Whether you like it or not, COVID-19 pandemic will influence dozens of writers, filmmakers and artists around the world. There’s no way around it. We all live in the very moment of it. It’s what you see in the morning news, on your work Zoom calls and remote beers with friends.
The scale of the pandemic – both in the economic and human loss terms – is likely to be comparable with WWII. Today the official number passed a million of infected people, and nearing to 55.000 deaths. It’s a colossal punch in the gut for humanity.
Those numbers will nothing but double in the next weeks.
A global conversation is, thus, inevitable. People will need to let the steam off. The question is this though – will we want to re-live the lockdowns, self-isolations induced by fear, and will-testing tragedy of economic downfall? Nobody knows. Yet dealing with the trauma might mean a shift of the focus of our attention. After reading about coronavirus all the time, what audiences might need more is Adam Sandler. Even if it means losing a few brain cells.
There’s one more reason. When you think about it, the purpose of WWII cinematography is – especially for the younger generations – often informative. And since we’re all seeing these events, who wants to “indulge” further in this tragedy.
‘Corona’ – a straight-to-streaming business model
One final note on ‘Corona’ is its distribution.
With cinemas and all venues closed now, Keshvari can only count on streaming. ‘We thought it was going to pass‘, he admitted. The filmmaker counted on festivals, but neither of the big ones will take place.
That is the reality of many filmmakers now. Getting used to the digital distribution was the agenda for years now. Now, it has became reality.
You can watch the trailer of the movie below.