Titled “In the Same Breath,” HBO came on board as a producer and distributor at the start of production of the film with Wang, who won Sundance’s grand jury prize for documentary in 2019 with the acclaimed “One Child Nation.” The film will debut at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on Thursday.
Wang assembled a brave team of field producers, camera operators and subjects on the ground of a heavily-censored China to investigate the shadowy media campaign executed by the government in alleged attempts to conceal early knowledge of COVID-19’s deadly potential.
Wang, who was born in China and now lives in the U.S., also brings her narrative stateside, where virus control has failed significantly and become political fodder in the process. The film will be available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max later this year.
“The level of censorship and surveillance in COVID, it’s something I’ve never seen before,” Wang told Variety of the first days of outbreak in Wuhan. “We had a few people who were working on the film who at different times were questioned by the authorities. Part of their footage was taken or they had to stop their participation in the project. Some of them were so intimidated, they had to reconsider their career choice in a way. It is something that, even knowing how strict the censorship was, surprised me.”
Variety has an exclusive clip from the project below, featuring nearly a dozen news broadcasts where anchors repeat verbatim the same sentence — that eight doctors who were spreading “rumors” about the government’s knowledge of the disease would be held accountable, and such actions on social media and in journalism are illegal in the nation.
As the film moves to America, highlighting events like Trump support rallies, it explores parallel campaigns of misinformation waged by leadership and the devastating impact on citizens of both countries.
The film was produced and directed by Wang. Additional producers include Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, and Carolyn Hepburn; HBO senior producer Sara Rodriguez and executive producers Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller oversaw for the network.