Totally Under Control parents guide

Totally Under Control Parent Guide

Responses to this documentary will likely be predicated on political affiliation. That's unfortunate because it is a critically important film.

Overall A-

Drive in theaters (streaming later this month): This documentary takes a chronological look at the spread of covid-19 across the USA and examines the federal government's response to the pandemic.

Release date October 9, 2020

Violence B+
Sexual Content A
Profanity B+
Substance Use A

Why is Totally Under Control rated Not Rated? The MPAA rated Totally Under Control Not Rated

Run Time: 123 minutes

Parent Movie Review

When news footage in April showed coffins being deposited in mass graves in New York City, I sat in horrified disbelief in front of my TV set. How on earth, I wondered, did the richest and most powerful nation on earth come to this?

This is the question behind Totally Under Control. Produced at lightning speed, this is an up-to-the-minute documentary. With content spanning the period from December 2019 to October 1st, 2020, the film was completed a mere 12 days before its release date.

The speed of its release is matched by the ingenuity of its production. The directors of Totally Under Control deserve credit for safely making a film during a pandemic. They took extraordinary measures to virus-proof the process, delivering cameras to some interview subjects so they could film themselves, or dividing rooms with plastic to film other experts. That it works so well is a tribute to their skill, planning, and dedication. There is no loss in quality and that is an achievement on its own.

They have also managed to offer an encyclopedic look at the American response to the novel coronavirus. To do so, the film provides a chronological overview of the virus’s domestic spread alongside interviews with leading experts in the field. It also contrasts the US government’s response with that of South Korea, which experienced its first case of covid-19 on the same day – January 20th, 2020. Since that date, South Korea, with a population of 51 million, has had 24,476 cases of covid-19, and 428 deaths. The US, with a population six and a half times larger, has seen over 7 million cases and 213,000 deaths.

This documentary suggests three primary reasons for the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus across the US. First: the delay in widespread testing that made it impossible to catch, track, and trace early cases, as was done successfully in countries like South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan, successfully limiting the virus’s spread. Second: failures of medical supply lines, most tragically visible in shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) for medical personnel. Third: the politicization of public health precautions. Throughout these discussions, a few themes recur, specifically, a rigid bureaucracy, the gross incompetence of too many political appointees, and the toll taken by an ideology that put private profits ahead of public health.

Totally Under Control will certainly be a controversial film and will be lambasted by critics on the right for criticizing the Trump administration (and by critics on the far left for not being critical enough). Whether or not you like the movie will probably depend on your opinion of Donald Trump’s presidency. This is unfortunate. This documentary is not a political screed; it’s a post-mortem cataloging the failures that led to so many unnecessary deaths. Ideally, it will be watched by as many citizens as possible, if only to make sure that these failures don’t recur when the next pandemic emerges, as it surely will.

Directed by Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan, Suzanne Hillinger. Running time: 123 minutes. Theatrical release October 9, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for Totally Under Control

Totally Under Control
Rating & Content Info

Why is Totally Under Control rated Not Rated? Totally Under Control is rated Not Rated by the MPAA

Violence:   A dead body is seen being carried on a forklift. A mass grave is seen.
Sexual Content: There is a brief clip of people in scanty swimwear.
Profanity: There are three scatological curses and two terms of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.

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Totally Under Control Parents' Guide

One of the experts interviewed in the film is Rick Bright, an immunologist and vaccine researcher, who was the director of the biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Dr. Bright was demoted after making a whistleblower complaint and later resigned. What do you think of Dr. Bright’s whistleblower complaint? Do you think he did the right thing? Why or why not? Do you think his decisions strengthen or weaken the USA’s pandemic response?

CBC: Whistleblower alleges retaliation from Trump admin for revealing coronavirus response failures

The Washington Post: I couldn’t sit idly and watch people die from Trump’s chaotic, politicized pandemic response, so I resigned

Testing in the United States was delayed by over a month due to flawed test kits. What do you think the government could have done differently to speed the testing process. How do you think that could have altered the trajectory of the coronavirus in the US?

The New York Times: The Lost Month: How a Failure to Test Blinded the U.S. to Covid-19

The Atlantic: The 4 Key Reasons the U.S. Is So Behind on Coronavirus Testing

National Review: The Media Said Trump Didn’t Have a COVID Testing Strategy. The Media Was Wrong.

PPE shortages exacerbated the risks of the pandemic. How do you think this issue could have been handled differently? What should be done now to ensure adequate supplies going forward?

The Washington Post: In the early days of the pandemic, the US government turned down an offer to manufacture millions of N95 masks in America

The New Yorker: A Young Kennedy, In Kushnerland, Turned Whistleblower.

CNBC: Why a PPE shortage still plagues America and what we need to do about it

The Guardian: America’s PPE shortage could last years without strategic plan, experts warn

Mother Jones: Whistleblower Rick Bright Details Failure to Act on Mask Shortages

From hydroxychloroquine to face masks, potential treatments and mitigation strategies have been politicized in the US to a degree not seen in any other country. Why do you think these issues have become political? What is the cost to Americans? What can you do to depoliticize them in your own community?

Cato Institute: Americans Have Always Politicized Public Health

Vox: Why masks are (still) politicized in America

Intelligencer: The Theory That Explains the Politicization of Coronavirus

The Atlantic: The Social-Distancing Culture War Has Begun

National Review: What the Masks Mean

Some countries have (so far) managed to keep the coronavirus under control. What can we learn from their strategies?

End Coronavirus: Some Are Winning – Some Are Not

Stat: An expert’s take on what the US, UK did wrong in Covid-19 communications – and what others did right

BBC News: Coronavirus: How to tell which countries are coping best with Covid

Vox: Are women leaders better at fighting coronavirus? It’s complicated.

 

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