IMDB Link: I Am Not A Hero (2020)
Directors: Pablo Diaz Crutzen, Stijn Deconinck, Robin Smit
Writer: Stijn Deconinck
Synopsis: At the peak of the COVID pandemic, young friends Pablo and Robin spend night and day in the Erasmus University Hospital documenting the stories behind the numbers. They won’t leave until the virus is under control.
There are going to be many documentaries about COVID-19 and how each country has handled it. Whether it is Netflix originals that explain how the virus works, or a view of how a country such as America failed to get the virus under control, this will be a subject that will be reported on for years to come. Out of the feature-length films of the subject matter, this is the first one I have seen. I have to say, I am glad that this was the first one I did see of the subject matter.
This film does not focus on the government controlling lockdowns and what they did to stop the virus from spreading. This film does not focus on the virus itself, going through the different aspects of the virus and how it came to be. As the title suggests, I Am Not A Hero is focusing on those people who were called heroes during the pandemic: the doctors and nurses who worked on the frontline during these tough and horrible times.
There were many issues that doctors and nurses faced across the world when it came to the pandemic, and these were not just the issues that were made public in the news. Most people are aware of the shortage of PPE (personal protective equipment) that staff had access to during these times, particularly across Europe. However, what some people would not have considered is how overworked these staff members were who had to do not only so much overtime and adapting to a new environment, but perhaps go weeks or months away from their families, in case they were to get an infection.
This film is short for a feature-length, clocking in at 73 minutes. There is some fantastic footage within that, and the interview sequences are used to great effect, having a focal lead whilst still recognising the team aspect of this huge task that every single one of them had to go through. There are some small moments, particularly when hearing that patients were at the end of their life – whilst being respectful and not showing their faces at their dying moments – which were incredibly impactful. However, I do wonder if there was enough footage to make a feature-length, as the film does fall flat and start repeating itself in the second half.
(SPOILER WARNING – To properly review this film, I have to go into spoilers in this paragraph to explain why this film didn’t work tonally for me throughout)
This film has an ending which, whilst true in the moment and time that this was being filmed, feels out of touch in today’s world. The synopsis hints at the idea that the directors, Robin Smit and Pablo Diaz Crutzen, would not leave the hospital until the virus is under control. This is not at the fault of the directors for the film, but it is hard to watch these nurses and doctors celebrate what should have been the end of the pandemic for Belgium when today (October 28th 2020) they just had 128 deaths recorded. Perhaps the directors took a more positive approach to looking at the work that the staff did at the time, but it feels out of place and immature in the world that we are living in at this moment.
I am glad that my first COVID-19 documentary was about those working during the pandemic, focusing on the staff who worked so hard to keep as many people safe and alive during this time. It is the human connection that I am more fascinated with than the politicians and the virus itself, as that is what shows heart and the true fight against this virus more than anything itself. One day, I will be able to watch this and feel good about the ending, but right now it just feels hard to watch what we had and where we are at now.