Nanfu Wang interview: ‘In the Same Breath’ director

“In the Same Breath” is a feature documentary on the Oscar shortlist that questions, how did the Chinese government turn pandemic cover ups in Wuhan into a triumph for the Communist party? Director Nanfu Wang also draws comparisons to the United States and how people who criticize the government’s response to COVID-19, in both countries, can be targeted. Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“When I started making this film in January, when the outbreak first started in Wuhan, it was driven by a very deep outrage and sadness,” Wang reveals. “It was very quickly that I discovered that there was a huge discrepancy, a lack of transparency and, in fact, deliberate misinformation from the government. At the time I wanted to make a film because I wanted the world to see the real reality in Wuhan. As I was making the film the outbreak reached the U.S. I found myself asking, what did I not know about the U.S.? That became the theme of the film. How both governments in the U.S. and China shaped the narrative.”

Throughout the process, Wang had various sources sending her footage for her film. “In the digital world, I never knew how many hours,” she admits when asked how much footage was compiled. “We had 20 cinematographers filming. More than 10 of them in China and others in the United States. We were filming nonstop. The editing process was happening simultaneously while the shooting was happening. We built a platform where the cinematographers could upload their footage the same day they filmed it. The editing took place from February until December.”

Despite what she had seen take place in Wuhan, Wang admits she could relate to people in the U.S. who weren’t taking the virus seriously. “In January, February and March we saw from the CDC a lot of change in guidelines,” she says. “All the way to March we were told that there was no need to wear a mask outside. That was when my mom, who is 300 miles away from Wuhan, called me and told me to wear a mask. I told her, ‘Hey, look at the scientists in the U.S.,’ which I trusted. And they said no. Of course by late March it was revealed that none of that was correct.”

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UPLOADED Jan 25, 2022 12:26 pm