Directed by: #RubenMariaSoriquez
Written by: #RubenMariaSoriquez
Great documentaries can take controversial topics or opinions, and, when supported by a focused message backed up with facts and evidence, can change opinions of even those adamantly opposed to the initial point. Pandemiocracy’s anti-lockdown argument is certainly controversial, but this production’s attempt at presenting it is aimless, messy, and totally unconvincing.
An Italian-Filipino family separated across the world by Covid-19 lockdowns try to navigate a labyrinth of pandemic restrictions. As they make their journey, the father (director Ruben Maria Soriquez) conducts his own research on preventative measures against the disease, intercut with the political impact of lockdown on communities across the globe.
Pandemiocracy is a directionless, erratic mess which professes wild and unproven theories on the effectiveness of lockdown, the damage to free speech and pseudoscientific dietary advice on preventing COVID. Using a combination of interview and newsreel footage, the documentary presents a broad overview of the pandemic and the efforts from across the world to contain it. But director Ruben Maria Soriquez fails to tell a consistent story on the topics he covers. Within the first 15 minutes, subjects ranging from lockdowns, fake news, racism and (somehow) the Iraq War have all been featured. The net the film casts is far too wide – often just bombarding viewers with seemingly random facts without context of why they matter. Use of stock footage of domestic abuse, and the murder of George Floyd come across as absolutely tasteless and far-removed from the film’s key themes.
The film is controversially anti-lockdown – though stops short of explicitly stating as such. Early hints that lockdowns are ineffective or that safety regulations breach human rights are sprinkled through the film, with cherry-picked statistics thrown over imagery of unpopular political figures. An extended study of Sweden – and their government’s refusal to lockdown – is where the film really starts to make its case, and does here at least offer some evidence supporting their strategy (the film was released prior to Sweden recently reporting the highest infection and hospitalisation rate on the continent). Defending David Icke’s right to spread tin-foil hat drivel is where the mask really slips – and frankly where the film loses all credibility. Soriquez’ anguish at being separated from his family for months is understandably reason for his frustration towards lockdowns. But the film skates far too close to crankery to make a reasoned argument against them to all but the most receptive viewers.
Similarly, the film’s focus on diet and healthy eating is lacking in evidence or detail beyond testimony from doctors than a good diet can prevent other disease. The director’s silent implication that healthy people have nothing to worry about is both dangerously wrong and poorly argued. A singular focus on death statistics fails to consider ‘long-COVID’ impacts on healthier people. And the phrase ‘some experts’ – to anonymously justify whatever hairbrained theory the director wishes – might as well be the documentary’s catchphrase.
Furthermore, the film feels amateurish at times, reusing cheap-looking animations and bizarre stock footage. Voiceovers are provided by automated speech bots – understandable as English may not be the native tongue of the creator but robotic and lifeless nonetheless. There is a wide variety of news footage utilised which is genuinely interesting at times, but generally used as background filler rather than anything seriously examined. Simple factual errors – such as a description of an Ecuadorian nurse as an NHS worker – are further evidence of sloppiness.
Emotive topics produce controversial opinions, and the quality of a documentary should not be judged solely on the argument it makes if it can be well-presented and convincing. Pandemiocracy is neither – failing to stay on message and reaching confusingly erroneous conclusions.