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LOS ANGELES – “Al-Quds Al-Arabi”: When the strikes of September 11, 2001, movie fans claimed that the movie “The Siege” (1998), he predicted it.
The film covered the US government’s targeting of Arabs and Muslims after a bus bombing in central New York by an Islamist movement. But when I spoke to the film’s screenwriter, journalist author, Lawrence Wright, he told me that he had not foretold anything, only wanted to warn of such events.
These days, fans of another movie, “Infection” (2011), claim to have foretold the events of the Coronavirus virus. In recent weeks, it has become the most watched online broadcast platform.
“Infection” is created by Hollywood director Stephen Soderberg, and it revolves around a pandemic caused by a deadly tactile virus. Initially he kills a bank employee who has returned from a business trip in Hong Kong, then her son before spreading to the United States. The authorities send a virus expert to investigate by tracking an outbreak, until they reach the employee and discover the virus, which quickly kills her. The authorities impose a quarantine on the cities in order to contain it. Panic and fear arise among people, who try to escape or loot food stores, while experts rush to find a vaccine.
In fact, the idea for the film is inspired by the SARS epidemic, which also started from China in 2003, and killed the Italian doctor who discovered it.
And unlike Coruna, SARS was controlled relatively quickly, because it afflicted more than three thousand people and killed eight hundred and sixty-one around the world. He is considered to be more dangerous than corona, because the death rate among his patients is 9 percent. Fortunately, it was controlled before it spread around the world, because its symptoms appear within two days, making it easier for doctors to isolate the infected before they transmit the infection to the healthy ones.
But the film assumes that the virus is spreading around the world and is turning into an epidemic of the current coronavirus. Which makes it terrifying, because it explores the consequences of fear and panic that spread among people on the ethics of society and the integrity of officials and transparency of power.
Another popular movie these days is “Outbreak” (1995), which deals with an outbreak of a deadly imaginary virus, “Mataba”, in the middle of a town in California brought to it by an animal laboratory employee, when he comes to sell him a monkey smuggled from Africa, who carries the virus.
A US Army virus expert is on a mission to contain the epidemic and find a vaccine, despite the opposition of his generals, who impose curfews on city residents and decide to crush them with a nuclear bomb in order to get rid of the virus, which kills its victims within twenty-four hours of infection.
“An outbreak” inspired by a book, “The Hot Zone,” which chronicles the occurrence of the Ebola virus, which is known to have killed eighty percent of its patients, to a monkey laboratory in Virginia, USA in 1989. The film warns of desperate and immoral measures that the authorities may take To roll back a virus.
This topic was dealt with in the disaster and horror movie, “World War Z”, which focuses on a former UN investigator looking for patient number zero, the source of the virus, which transforms his patients into human eaters. The film highlights the failure of the idea of countries building fences to prevent infiltration of the epidemic. As those countries discover that the virus has no borders.
Cinema predicted epidemics
The cinema has presented many such epidemiological films since its inception early in the last century. Since the source of evil, the virus, is not visible, the focus is on its implications for society and the conflicts that result from it. Most of these films follow the same narrative equation: a virus that spreads to the United States or Europe, and the hero, who is usually white, sets out to search for its source in order to develop a vaccine and save his family and the world. But each of these films focuses on a specific topic on epidemics.
In 1918, the Spanish flu afflicted five hundred million people, or nearly a third of humanity then, and killed between twenty and fifty million of them, becoming the worst epidemic in history. Its source was a farmer from Kansas. When he was recruited to fight in World War I alongside the Allied Forces in Europe, he transmitted the infection to his colleagues in the American, British and French armies, and when the soldiers returned to their country they spread the disease there. However, viruses in Hollywood movies are usually from Asia, Africa and Latin America.
That stereotype reflects reality. Minorities and strangers have often been blamed for epidemics throughout history, such as holding some Asians responsible for the epidemics of Corona and SARS, while homosexuals suffered discrimination against them after the spread of HIV in the early 1980s, which has killed 30 million people so far, and subjected Jews to hostility and mass execution in Europe, after They were accused of spreading the Black Death, which crushed nearly half of Europe’s population in the fourteenth century.
But in the movie “Andromeda Dynasty (1969)” the virus arrives from outer space in order to destroy humanity. In the movie “12 Monkeys (1995)” a terrorist movement uses a deadly virus as a biological weapon to crush humanity.
Indeed, viruses or biological weapons are the most deadly of all other weapons. In the last century, the number of virus victims was more than twice that of all wars. For this, the Europeans used it when they arrived in America in the sixteenth century to crush more than twenty million Indians, who did not have immunity against it, in order to control their lands. Many superpowers, such as these, also store viruses in their military laboratories to use as a deterrent.
The struggle between power and the media
For fear of society’s response and to avoid panic, the Authority initially tries to obscure the epidemic or alleviate its severity by spreading lies to the media or silencing it with threats or force.
In Elia Kazan’s movie, “Panic in the Street” (1950), the US health authorities decided not to tell the press about the emergence of a pneumonic plague in New Orleans. While the movie, “The Killer that Spreaded in New York” (1950), dealt with the events of the smallpox danger in New York in 1947 when the authorities did not reveal to the media and citizens that the vaccine was running out.
In the eighth century, the Umayyad caliph, al-Walid bin Abd al-Malik, was the first to impose quarantine on leprosy patients at the first hospital in Damascus to prevent the spread of the disease. At the time of the Black Death, the Senate of Venice imposed the same procedure on everyone who entered the city for forty days, or as it is called in Italian “Quarantina”.
Quarantine is still considered the best weapon against epidemics, but people throughout history rejected it and rebelled against its powers, because it stifled their freedoms and disrupted their daily lives, as we see in the movie, “The Castle” (1938), where miners in Wales refuse to stop going to bars from In order to contain the TB epidemic. Fear of the epidemic pushes people in contemporary times to hospitals and buy sterilizers and masks, but in the Middle Ages, they rejected the advice of doctors, who considered them magicians, and resorted to supplication to their Lord to forgive their sins and rid them of their plight, because they believed that the epidemic was a punishment applied to them. But the collective prayers did the opposite, as they reinforced the spread of the epidemic.
In the movie “The Black Epidemic” (2002), which takes place at the time of the Black Death in Europe, people are pleading with God to forgive them for their immorality and moral decadence, and remove the curse from the epidemic.
In the movie “The Coated Curtain” (2006), residents of a Chinese village in which a cholera epidemic broke out revolt against an English doctor when he asked them to transfer their dead from the cemetery next to the river to prevent contamination of water, because they believed that the dead should be buried by the river. Epidemic movies always end up finding the hero of the vaccine in a short period, and saving the world from the virus. However, in addition to the development of a vaccine that takes months and often years, most epidemics are over because the virus killed everyone who did not have immunity against it, or that social isolation prevented it from spreading to other victims.
But will a virus erase humanity from the face of the earth as mentioned in the movie “12 Monkeys” or “I Am Legend (2007)”, in which a virus kills all New Yorkers except for a virus expert who has immunity to it.
The films of the epidemic reveal that the seriousness of the virus does not lie in physical illness but in its repercussions on society and power, as contrary to the wars that drive people to join hands and reinforce their loyalty to their leadership against one enemy, the epidemic tears the fabric of society, degrades its morals, and shatters its confidence in power, and that Because of the fear and panic stemming from it. Although the Coruna virus kills in less than nearly three percent of its infected people, the resulting panic has sparked racism against Asians, paralyzed the countries of the world, strangled the freedoms of its people and destroyed their economies.