Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

'Two strange months': watch the story of an apartment building in Shanghai during Covid-19 lockdown

A new one-hour special documentary will be released next week on the Smithsonian Channel

As people around the world observe social-distancing practices, it’s undeniable that, in some ways, the coronavirus pandemic has brought many people closer together than ever.

The unprecedented scale of the crisis has meant that residents in countries as far apart as China, Italy, the US and the UAE have been experiencing similar realities.

This truth has been brought to life by filmmaker Yu Kung and his wife, Crystal Liu, who have captured the impact of the pandemic in Shanghai through the eyes of their neighbours.

The couple’s new documentary, Covid: Our Lockdown in Shanghai, offers a glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of people, all living in the same residential building, grappling with the situation in very different ways.

It premieres on Tuesday, May 26, at 8am UAE time on the Smithsonian Channel.

Watch the trailer for the documentary in the video above.

On January 23, the Chinese government announced a full lockdown for the 11 million residents of Wuhan, a city that’s four hours by train from Shanghai.

Kung, a British advertising creative and filmmaker, and Liu, found themselves losing income and locked down in their apartment on the 19th floor of a building in Shanghai. So they decided to put their skills to good use by making a film about it.

Diego Room. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel
Diego, a 10-year-old resident of the building. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel

The pair started reaching out to their neighbours – many of whom they’d never met – to see if they’d be willing to tell their stories. The result is a one-hour film that features a variety of characters; strangers who later become friends.

Neighbours in one building, in one city, living through the impact of the virus that will change the world

Yu Kung, filmmaker

This includes Tiffany D White, an American nursery school teacher, who left the US to start a new life in Shanghai after the death of her father. We watch as she grapples with the dilemma of whether to stay in the city or leave as the outbreak takes hold. Her summer wedding plans are also thrown into question.

Then there’s Jasmine, a doctor who sends her four-year-old son and husband away because of her higher risk of exposure to the virus, as she works 24-hour shifts and is regularly in contact with fellow medics who are coming back from Wuhan.

Meanwhile, the Yu family, who own a hard-hit wedding dress shop, see orders dry up, and the financial pressures bleed into their home life, as three generations strive to live harmoniously under the same roof.

Wedding mask. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel
A dress from the Yu family's wedding shop. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel

Then there's lawyer Wu Ming, a self-confessed workaholic, who finds himself parenting 10-year-old son Diego alone for the first time, as his civil servant wife faces an increased workload.

“Over the course of two strange months, our fellow residents grappled with a new daily reality, see their businesses suffer, and savour unexpected life-affirming moments,” says Kung in the preview. “Neighbours in one building, in one city, living through the impact of the virus that will change the world.”

Cleaner at work. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel
A cleaner at work in the Shanghai residential building. Courtesy Smithsonian Channel

Alongside portraying these domestic lives, Kung and Liu also documented what was going on around them, including the technological measures China used to fight the virus, from thermal imaging scanners to temperature guns and virus tracking apps.

While Shanghai might be thousands of kilometres away from many of us, the stories and people behind this documentary are now extremely relatable.

More information is at www.smithsonianchannel.com

Updated: May 18, 2020 11:12 AM

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