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FIFDH 2021

Review: Pandémie, la révolte des citoyens contre l’État

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- Matteo Born and Françoise Wilhammer tackle the pressing topic of the pandemic which continues to plague us, lending a voice to those who feel betrayed by the system

Review: Pandémie, la révolte des citoyens contre l’État

Produced by Temps Présent - an RTS TV programme dedicated to journalistic reports - the medium-length film Pandémie, la révolte des citoyens contre l’État by Romanian director Matteo Born (whose second work Paul torna al villaggio was one of various short films selected for the 2021 Solothurn Film Festival) and by journalist Françoise Wilhammer is competing in the Grand Réportage section of the FIFDH.

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As the title effectively conveys, Born and Wilhammer’s documentary takes us to the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic and lends a voice to the countervailing power of the common people. We travel from Bergamo, where the first European case was recorded, to Bellinzona, the capital city of the Swiss canton most badly affected by the health crisis, with many of the region’s elderly people’s homes having been transformed into veritable graveyards. Instead of focusing on the causes of the pandemic, this documentary shines a spotlight on those who are still battling on behalf of those who are no longer with them: family members and friends fighting in the name of those who have been sacrificed on the altar of financial well-being, who weren’t deemed important enough to compete with economic interests of a markedly despotic flavour. The documentary focuses on the idea of collective justice - the only kind capable of obtaining answers in the face of mute, unassailable institutions - but it’s the need to question these very institutions, created, theoretically, to protect us, which really transpires from this film. The people featured here, who are, at last, playing active, protagonist roles, position themselves against the government, as a transparent alternative to the current powers-that-be, who are too concerned with protecting their own economic interests to take stock of the suffering caused by their decisions. It’s a malaise which has been simmering under the surface for some time and which the pandemic has transformed into a veritable revolt.

Pandémie begins its journey in Bergamo, where lawyer Consuelo Locati, an avenger, of sorts, for the countless victims of the epidemic which has decimated her town (up to one hundred deaths in a single day, including her own father), is fighting for clarity on the management of the health crisis. Backing her up and lending voice to the tens of thousands of people who are insisting that the Government should accept responsibility in this respect, is the Facebook group “noi denunceremo” (lit. “we will denounce”), which collects the testimonies of all those who have lost close ones in unclear circumstances. As an ex-officio procedure begins in the Court of Bergamo, questions come thick and fast (from way beyond the Lombardy border). Why, upon discovery of the pandemic, wasn’t the emergency room in Alzano Lombardo - which is located within a heavily industrialised area and which (perhaps for this very reason) was never classified as a red zone - closed for deep cleaning and disinfection? Why did almost half of the residents die in several of Ticino’s elderly care homes? Why, upon discovery of the first suspected cases, didn’t the Tyrolean Alps immediately close their ski resorts? How did it happen that a clearly at risk, thirty-one-year-old woman was never tested for the virus and died tragically at home? What transpires from all these testimonies is that economic interests are often prioritised over the fundamental right to life. It’s a prioritisation of economy over health which forces us to rethink the relationship between the individual and the State, and to re-connect with the notion of community which the epidemic seems to have eroded.

Bergamo might have decided to speak out on behalf of its victims and to denounce the injustices suffered, but, ultimately, nothing can cancel out the anxiety that is still winding its way through this city, where the locals continue to exist in a state of high alert.

Pandémie, la révolte des citoyens contre l’État is produced by RTS-Radio Télévision Suisse.

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(Translated from Italian)

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