Year of the Everlasting Storm

Taken from onscreen text in the segment made by Thai experimental filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), the title of this high-concept anthology film poetically embodies its overarching premise: each work was made during and responds to the year-plus-long COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to Weerasethakul’s contribution, it includes short films by Iran’s Jafar Panahi, Singapore’s Anthony Chen (whose short narrative is set in China), Chile’s Dominga Sotomayor, and, from the U.S., individual segments by Malik Vitthal, Laura Poitras, and David Lowery. Setting the bar high in the first segment, Panahi (The Circle, This Is Not a Film) is no stranger to forced isolation, given the years he spent under house arrest; his work documents a visit from his mother-in-law, who has a contentious, albeit endearing, relationship with the family’s pet iguana. Vitthal (Imperial Dreams, Body Cam) relinquishes the camera to a single father whose three kids are in foster care, conveying another form of distancing that actually succeeds in spreading a virus, that of state-compelled alienation between a parent and his children. Expanding on themes she’s explored throughout her career, Poitras (Citizenfour, Risk) details an investigation into the NSO Group, an Israeli company whose spyware has been linked to the harassment and eradication of dissidents around the globe and is now being leveraged for the purpose of contact tracing. Lowery’s ghostly short is a speculative resurrection of a tragedy past, referencing a bygone pandemic in its connection of then and now. Per usual, Weerasethakul’s work is hypnotically opaque, conveying tranquil auguries as if by cinematic osmosis. The parts by Chen (Ilo Ilo, Wet Season) and Sotomayor (Too Late to Die Young) are more unambiguous than the others but compelling nonetheless, assured in their direction and point of view. There’s bound to be a glut of such endeavors (“What did you make during quarantine?” will be the new “What did you do on your summer vacation?”), but this is a particularly sublime entry into the emerging genre.

Music Box Theatre