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Convergence: Courage in a Crisis 2021 Movie Review Poster Trailer Online
The film opens with images of massive crowds indoors and out, urban bustle, New Years Eve 2020 parties. An ominous title card: January. A tally of Covid cases and deaths begins here. We meet Wenhua Lin, a video blogger in Wuhan, China, as he volunteers to drive doctors and nurses to hospitals after officials shut down public transportation; the streets are mostly empty. In Tehran, Iran, Mohammed Reza and Sara Khaki hunker down in their apartment to comply with quarantine orders; they watch the Pope on TV offering prayer for the world as they express their skepticism in their government’s ability to respond to the crisis.
In London, Syrian refugee Hassan Akkad jumps at the chance to work at a hospital, cleaning and sanitizing; his social media stories highlighting his tireless co-workers go viral. In the Paraisopolis favela in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Renata Alves is a GPS navigator for the area’s first-ever reliable ambulance service, the product of private donations; usually an event coordinator, she knows the favela’s labyrinthine tangle of streets and alleyways so well, she decided to help during the pandemic.
In Miami, Dr. Armen Henderson talks openly about how difficult it is to pronounce people dead so often; his work at the University of Miami hospital is one of his jobs, while the other is providing homeless people, whose plight worsened during the crisis, with showers, medical assistance and facemasks. In Lima, Peru, Dr. Rosa Luz Lopez deals with a litany of problems: Covid patients literally lined up outside, rising numbers of doctors and staff testing positive, her own bout with pneumonia and the plight of a 15-year-old boy named Aldair, who’s intubated and needs a tracheotomy.
In Delhi, India, a couple makes their way trepidatiously through an overpopulated hospital to their obstetrician; not too far away, funeral pyres burn in the streets. At the University of Oxford, Prof. Sarah Gilbert works diligently to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine. And in Geneva, World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus maintains a measured tone as he battles rampant politicization of the virus.
Von Einsiedel’s catch-all approach to stories from the pandemic covers a lot of ground, and tries to touch upon a number of universal topics. Convergence breezes by mental health (Reza calls the doctor for a variety of physical symptoms, and is told they’re consistent with anxiety), tosses in a montage of virtual weddings and funerals and offers a political when Ghebreyesus says, “There’s no vaccine for misguided nationalism.” The Delhi couple eventually gives birth to a healthy child in a story that feels undeveloped; we empathize with Khaki when she grieves the death of her uncle with her father via Facetime, but beyond that, we don’t get to know her or Reza particularly well.
At its strongest, the documentary builds a narrative thread about how the pandemic further exacerbates the plight of underprivileged communities: “This is the poor side of Peru,” an exhausted Lopez says, with visible indentations on her face from masks and visors. Henderson helps a man with a head injury, suffered when Miami city officials bulldozed his homeless encampment beneath an overpass. Akkad posts a video shaming the British government for offering a bereavement package to doctors and nurses, but not lower-level workers like himself, many of whom are also immigrants — and inspires a policy change. Alves and a paramedic wind through ramshackle halls and stairways to help sick people, and she laments that Covid is the least of their worries: “When will all the other pandemics end?” she asks.
Some of these stories beg for further exploration; scenes capturing Alves’ work in the poverty-stricken favela are immediate and gripping, and an entire feature could be made about all those other pandemics she refers to. Convergence goes off on a tangent when the murder of George Floyd by a police officer inspires social-justice marches worldwide — another topic worthy of its own documentary — and it’s relevant in the face of upsetting security-cam footage of Henderson being racially profiled and cuffed by a cop. It would be even more relevant if the film was more focused and stringently edited.
But the overarching point of the film is to inspire unity in the face of catastrophe. No doubt, these stories are moving, and scenes within them are sobering and painful, depicting harsh realities with a strong journalistic bent. Convergence finds some hope within the tragedy, ending with a montage sing-along that comes off hokey and a little bit manipulative. But ultimately, that’s just fine, everything considering.