In January 2020, a deadly new coronavirus was spreading quickly through central China. Soon British advertising creative and filmmaker, Yu Kung and his wife, Crystal Liu, found themselves losing their income and locked down in their apartment block in Shanghai. They decided to use their skills to capture the impact of the epidemic and sudden confinement on the lives of their neighbours. The powerful and moving one-hour documentary Covid: Our Lockdown in Shanghai offers a rare glimpse into the lives of a diverse group of people grappling with the same unprecedented situation. It premieres Monday, May 25 at 9 p.m. on Smithsonian Channel.
Covid: Our Lockdown in Shanghai reveals the challenges, tensions and sometimes life-affirming moments among the residents. Scenes of handling stress and developing coping mechanisms turn to surprising moments of affirmation and joy. From the first moments of lockdown to the relief several weeks later, viewers will witness the journey to life after lockdown as they begin to regain a semblance of normality and reunite with loved ones.
Like many citizens in all parts of the world, initially Yu Kung did not recognize the full threat of the outbreak. “I remember seeing people putting on social media funny memes about the virus, making fun of the corona name with the Corona beer and stuff like that,” he says in the film. That changed dramatically on January 23, 2020 when the Chinese government announced a full lockdown for 11 million residents of Wuhan, a city just four hours by train from Shanghai.
Soon, everyone in Yu Kung’s Shanghai apartment building found themselves locked down in an eerily deserted city, with no sense of when the situation might change. Having spent weeks in isolation, the filmmakers began recognizing the significance of this extraordinary, historic situation, and started reaching out to neighbours – many of whom they had never truly met – to see if they would be willing to have their experiences captured.
Alongside portraying the compelling personal detail of life in domestic lockdown for neighbours of diverse backgrounds, professions, ages and nationalities, Yu and Crystal document the ground-breaking technological measures the government put into place to try to fight the virus – from thermal imaging scanners to temperature guns and virus tracking apps. This personal, intimate film reveals both fascinating, rare insights into one country’s experience of the sudden emergence of Covid-19 and the personal, relatable daily realities of the people first experiencing the world in lockdown.
The neighbours include:
Covid: Our Lockdown in Shanghai offers a unique insight into the lessons learned from Shanghai’s lockdown – lessons that will strike a chord with many still under lockdown today in other parts of the world. Neighbours, once strangers, now find themselves stepping back outside with new connections and a fresh appreciation for the things that really matter. The lockdown has, in many cases, brought families and neighbours closer together, offering hope for the rest of the world. The program reveals a unified resilience, reminding us that we’re all in this together.
Covid: Our Lockdown in Shanghai is produced, directed and filmed by Yu Kung and Crystal Liu of Campfire Productions. Executive producers for Wonderhood Studios are Rebecca Templar and Samantha Anstiss and Wonderhood’s producer/director is Luke Korzun Martin. Charles Poe and David Royle serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.