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Thu May 28, 2020, 06:27 AM

'COVID: Our Lockdown in Shanghai' Review: Short-Form Doc Offers Intimate Look at Quarantined Life

At just under 50 minutes, Yu Kung and Crystal Liu’s short-form documentary special, “COVID: Our Lockdown in Shanghai,” covers a dizzying array of topics so timely that the word “timely” doesn’t quite cut it. Shot during the early days of Shanghai’s pandemic lockdown, also known as mere months ago (the short-form documentary, airing on Smithsonian Channel, began filming in January), Kung and Liu’s doc follows the swift change in everyday life within the confines of their own apartment building in the bustling city. It’s an indisputably great idea for a quarantine-era project, one that seems destined to be imitated in a variety of ways, but Kung and Liu don’t just have the benefit of being quick on the draw, but of doing it (mostly) the right way, too.

Picking up during the early days of the pandemic — so early, in fact, that even the residents of Shanghai, just a four hour train ride from the outbreak’s heart in Wuhan, weren’t yet terrified — Kung and Liu follow a world moments away from tremendous change. Watching it even now, with a touch (just a touch) of remove, it’s bizarre to hear early news reports chatting about a new virus playing over scenes of city-dwellers happily moving around Shanghai without a care in the world. Slowly, gracefully, those reports give way to more urgent missives and a shots of the city growing ever more empty and eerie. The doc’s muted color scheme, initially soothing, steadily turns into something else: emblematic of all the life and energy that is missing from the world.



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