What's your lockdown story?

Updated: Apr 12, 2020, 07:49 IST | Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

When Disneyland shut down, only the fourth time in all of history, an American duo knew the global lockdown was worth documenting through personal accounts handpicked from across the world

The Zicks are a family of missionaries in Bologna, Italy
The Zicks are a family of missionaries in Bologna, Italy

In the second week of March, writer-producer Shawnda Christiansen went to the nearest department store in Sacramento to shop for supplies. As she was adding essentials to the cart, she thought she'd pick up toilet paper later. Four days later, on March 13, Arlene Barshinger, who lives in Irvine, 15 minutes away from Disneyland, rang her, suggesting she stock bog rolls. "With most shelves empty, there was nothing left. I was shocked at how suddenly things had escalated," recalls Christiansen, 50. Until then, the state of California had recorded 198 cases of Coronavirus and four deaths. It weren't the statistics that were alarming for its 40 million population, but that Disney had announced the closing of its theme parks across Florida and Paris. "It's rare for Disneyland to shut its doors," says Barshinger, 49, a line producer. In 1963, they shut for a national day of mourning after President John F Kennedy's assassination, then during the Northridge earthquake in 1994, and on the day of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

This historic moment needed to be recorded, the duo felt. This would be their second project after they had first met during the filming of Junkie, a 2018 movie on a real-life addict's transformation and hope. "The idea was to document everything we saw around us—from discussions on conspiracy theories to people blinded by political vendetta claiming Democrats are fabricating this to mess up the elections, and obviously the sudden impact of the pandemic on our routine life," Christiansen informs. There were conflicting stories on social media. "While some were filled with terror, most others compared the symptoms to a regular flu. Slowly, everyone realised how we are all struggling with the same thing, just that some countries were having it tougher. For instance, some countries did not run out of toilet roll supplies," laughs Christiansen, who is also a substance abuse counsellor.

The filmmakers discuss the lockdown situation in India over a video call
The filmmakers discuss the lockdown situation in India over a video call

On March 20, the pair started documenting evidence for an ongoing series, To Be Continued. Directed by Christiansen and co-hosted by Barshinger, this lockdown documentary features interviews with people from around the world—US, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, Australia, India—as they describe how the Coronavirus outbreak is affecting their country and personal lives. "One of the most disturbing similarities across accounts is of hate crimes against Asians. I recently spoke to Leki, who hails from India's North East region. She says that in the beginning of March, when the pandemic had just started to sweep the country, someone spat on her in public transport," Barshinger informs. Another Indian, Kirin Vas, also makes it to the docu. She was in Australia when the lockdown was announced. She had to make her way back home near Delhi to be with her kids. Despite a harrowing journey—her flight had to return mid-way—she finally made it to India. After being in quarantine for 14 days, she was reunited with her family.

Fragile Stedile, a professional volleyball player from Brazil, is stuck in Cyprus due to the travel ban Fragile Stedile, a professional volleyball player from Brazil, is stuck in Cyprus due to the travel ban 

The duo has also featured sportspersons. Fragile Stedile, a professional volleyball player from Brazil, is stuck in Cyprus—an island country in the Eastern Mediterranean. "Loannis Dimakapoulus, on the other hand, is home, but still struggling to come to terms with the reality of lockdown. A professional basketball player in Greece, the government has put him in quarantine in his room for 14 days since he arrived. His family brings him food to the door. None of them can leave the house without a written permission," Barshinger says.

But the most moving stories have come from Italy. At 18,849, Italy has the most reported Coronavirus-related deaths in the world. "The Zicks are a family of missionaries in Bologna. They work to fight human trafficking. They say that the medical centres do not have enough equipment nor are they as advanced as other countries. Since the pandemic, they are using wartime protocol for medical treatment, which means they are only treating people with the highest likelihood of survival," Barshinger says.

Iva Canepa from Naples is worried for her pharmacist husband and son who still have to go to work. It is emotionally taxing for her to not be able to hug and kiss her parents. In most parts of Italy, people can only go to the nearest grocery store. "This is something that India is also starting to practice. We have something or the other to learn from each other," adds Christiansen.

Arlene Barshinger and Shawnda Christiansen
Arlene Barshinger and Shawnda Christiansen

The two hope to continue to film even when lockdowns are lifted to see how people and businesses struggle and recover. But, more than anything, the film is to spread the message of staying home, Christiansen thinks. "The more you stay inside, the better chance we all have at survival."

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