TMid-March 2021 will bring, for most Americans, a strange and surreal anniversary: the year mark of horrific realization, whether through a tweet, a cancellation, a diagnosis from a loved one, or a celebrity. , a lost job or a concert. – that the coronavirus was a very real threat that would implode the world as we knew it. For Aracelie Colón, then a 16-year-old high school student in Manhattan, it was the email announcing a two-week school closure. For his high school classmate, Shane Fleming, it was a positive diagnosis from a classmate and the closing of the Film Forum, where the movie buff watched a final feature film that was screened on March 14. For Arlet Guallpa, then 22, it was an ambulance outside his Washington Heights building that went to find the first of many residents who would succumb to the virus.
As New York plunged into survival mode, the three aspiring documentary makers, all involved in the youth film-making program DCTV Youth Media, they picked up their cameras. His short films, collected along with two others on HBO’s Covid Diaries NYC, look at the dizzying days of free fall from early quarantine, from the corrosive fear of sending loved ones to frontline jobs to the cost of isolation, stress. familiar from sudden unemployment to the Summer Electric Charge of racial justice protests. The six-minute films are all the more impressive in their brevity, each of which informally and simply commemorates an individual thread of the generational catastrophe revolving in New York.
For Colón, whose short My Covid Breakdown traces his deteriorating mental health in pandemic-induced isolation with invigorating frankness, the quarantine began as a tentatively welcome break, an opportunity to rejuvenate and address the mental health issues he had had. trouble arguing with family and friends. . But in April, when his school emailed him to say they would not be returning in person for the semester, the price of isolation plummeted. Before, she had been “really good at hiding it with my schedule, with the things I was doing, focusing on my school work,” Colón told The Guardian. It made it harder to hide with my family. “
Over the course of six minutes, Colón’s film goes from optimistic and dark humor to a moment of raw and painful vulnerability: “I just feel so many things and nothing at the same time,” he tearfully tells someone on Facetime. . “A part of me just felt like my whole world imploded from the inside out, and then a part of me just didn’t feel anything,” he recalled from that period.
Colón is one of many who dealt with mental health crises or hot spots during the pandemic, and the growing number of young people, like the high school students behind the podcast. Therapy for adolescents, to speak openly about recognizing vulnerability and seeking help, whether through therapy, medication, or openness to a confidant. “I understand how difficult it can be, especially when it comes to mental health, because it is not something that is physically tangible, it is not something that can be seen,” he said. “Sometimes it is difficult to justify what you feel or to justify others. But people should know that you don’t have to justify how you feel to other people. “
While Colón spoke of isolation and the interruption of the quarantine, other films delved into the adolescent experience of frustration and exhaustion of witnessing a broken economic and social system. The Only Way to Live in Manhattan, by Marcial Pilataxi, watches the socializing-laden outing sparked by protests in the wake of George Floyd’s assassination by Minneapolis police and Pilataxi’s protective instincts toward his grandmother, a construction superintendent. who does he live with. “We collect garbage for the rich,” he says, pointing his camera at his reflection in the mirror. “That is the only way to live in Manhattan.”
Fleming’s film, No Escape from New York, captures a family upset by uncertainty, when the pandemic evaporated their parents’ work (their father ran a restaurant, their mother worked on 14th Street Y). Confined to their soon-to-suffocate apartment in StuyTown, Manhattan, Fleming’s parents try to navigate the jammed unemployment claims system and show the toll of exhausted nerves. “We knew so little,” Fleming said of the hectic, surreal days of New York’s early quarantine, when Fleming could ride his Razor scooter down an empty Park Avenue and the sirens of ambulances became a terrifying constant.
Filming some of her family’s most tense and uncertain moments – at one point, her overwhelmed mother goes to bed in the middle of the day – “it almost felt like she was doing the moves,” she told The Guardian. . “I just have to film this and disconnect from the emotion of the moment. And that’s really hard to do. “It was strange breaking the camera while her mother was crying, she explained, but she had a sense of purpose to record the experience. Then and now, with unemployment benefits lagging and the end of the eviction moratorium New York is coming, “we are on the boat with a lot of people in this city and across the country,” he said, facing “a lot of uncertainty.”
The last two films look at the highly praised but materially underrated sacrifices of essential workers and, in particular, the transit operators who kept the city running when everything else fell apart. In When My Dad Got Covid, Camille Dianand worries about the health of her father, an MTA worker, after a colleague dies from the virus; When, within weeks of filming, he starts coughing, the fear is palpable and devastating. At the beginning of the pandemic, Guallpa began filming his parents: his father, a bus driver, and his mother, a home caregiver for his short Frontline Family. For weeks, Guallpa filmed his daily routines: waking up at 5:15 am with his father, so exhausted he pauses to take a deep breath as he puts on his socks; following her mother on her three bus ride, to the homes of older people without a mask for whom she cleans houses and bodies.
“You see what keeps these essential workers going and how they cope, you see how resilient they are,” Guallpa said of his film, which was intended to “start a conversation about essential workers and who they are and really give them a face. persons”. and this community, ”particularly in the wake of an administration and a president that denigrated immigrants, particularly Latinos, as lazy, dangerous, or expendable. “I wanted to show that people who come to this country want to work and work hard for their families,” he said.
At just 40 minutes, Covid Diaries NYC offers a tantalizing look at the potential of young filmmakers and the long shadow of disruption from the newly emerged pandemic. The future archive seen here contains emotions and experiences whose impact will slowly reveal itself, over time: acclimatization to constant fear, trauma of turmoil, hope for brighter days, faith in friends and family, and usefulness. to record one’s own raw experience.
Putting those personal moments on camera “took a lot of encouragement,” Colón said. But “as they say, a personal story is a universal story,” he added. “We all felt it was very important to share our stories, give us a platform and tell the world what is happening and how important it is.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism