Covid Diaries NYC review: HBO movie examines Gen Z experiences during the pandemic

Covid Diaries NYC. Photograph by Courtesy of HBO
Covid Diaries NYC. Photograph by Courtesy of HBO /

HBO’s COVID Diaries NYC  is a 40-minute film that examines how life in New York City was drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are five Gen Z filmmakers who collaborated on the project which is a series of short documentaries. DCTV handpicked a diverse group of directors who range from ages 17-21 to helm a vignette, and each young person shares their personal experience with their families during the initial lockdown, including the economic impact and how COVID-19 has impacted their mental health. Rosemary Colón-Martinez provides animation that is woven into the stories.

What is captivating about the film is that the audience is able to connect with the pathos of each subject. We care that Marcial is worried that he may infect his grandma if he bends the rules and hangs out in the street with his friends while breaking curfew. We are drawn closer to the fragility of humanity and the devastation that a highly contagious airborne illness has caused. I live in New York City and have heard the daily onslaught of ambulances and sirens since Central Park was turned into a makeshift hospital and morgue at the height of quarantine. These vignettes give us a birds-eye view of each person’s plight as we enter their homes. This year has been stressful for everyone and this film captures that anxiety in a time capsule.

The Only Way To Live In Manhattan follows Marcial Pilataxi as he lives and works with his grandmother in a small apartment. His grandma is a super which involves taking out the trash. “We pick up the garbage for the rich people. That is the only way we can afford to live in Manhattan,”  Pilataxi reveals to the camera in a vlog entry. He makes deliveries on his bicycle and ventures around the neighborhood when George Floyd protests break out. His fear about infecting his grandmother is one of his most touching scenes.

No Escape from New York follows Shane Fleming as his family leaves the city after both of his parents lose their jobs. This leaves them with no choice but to pack up because they can’t afford to costly rent in their Manhattan apartment. “We pay an ungodly amount for this apartment and we have no savings,” Shane says. His mother suffers from severe depression and has long sobbing attacks that cause her emotional breakdown during their cross-country drive to a new life.

Arlet Guallpa’s Frontline Family starts with her daily routine of watching ambulances pull up to her Washington Heights building to remove her ailing neighbors. She narrates that workers in full PPE gear clean up after someone passes away from coronavirus. “When someone dies, these guys show up,”  she says. Her father is a bus driver who risks getting sick while transporting passengers, while her mother is a health care worker who commutes for hours to care for her elderly patients. Her parents explain that they are luckier than most because they got good jobs after immigrating to this country, but they still have to hustle to pay bills and live the American dream.

Aracelie Colón shares her candid episodes with mental illness in My COVID Breakdown.  The seventeen-year-old was diagnosed before lockdown and was concerned about her parents who are both essential workers.

When My Father Got COVID shows what happens when Camille Dianand’s father contracts the illness while working as an MTA subway driver. Many of us have fatigue from hearing more details about a deadly virus that has killed over 500,000 Americans in the U.S. But COVID Diaries NYC offers an unfiltered look at how all of our lives were impacted on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

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Did you watch COVID Diaries NYC? What did you think of the film and its vignettes? Sound off in the comments.