Bioethics Blogs

Post-Script, Still Longer Shadows: Guillaume Lachenal on “In the Shadow of Ebola” by Guillaume Lachenal

This commentary on Gregg Mitman and Sarita Siegel’s In the Shadow of Ebola is intended as a post-script to the forum on the film which appeared earlier this year. Lachenal prepared this text, written in Paris, for a special session of the African Studies Association meetings in San Diego on 20 November 2015.

The first time I saw the film, I was initially struck by the visual conversation about movements and circulations, and how they were canalized by doors and fences: roadblocks; gunfire to make people move away; that boy who couldn’t move, his leg demolished; the not-so-closed, not-so-policed treatment centers and their heavy metal doors; the visas issues; the drives along the US highways; the CCTV across the Chicago airport gates; and the world-famous US wire fence along a Wisconsin walkway. It was the film’s light touch at these choreographies that touched me first, and the way they gave tempo to the film. The strength of the film is there. I wish I had the energy to think and write more about the limpid narrative arc, the brutality of stories of a state-humanitarian power that “saves and shoots at” his people, and the delicate visual rhythm that threads pieces together.

In the present situation here in Saint Denis, other images and ideas come to mind as I rewatch the film, which suddenly looks different: the declaration of the “state of emergency”; the classic psychology lesson—part of any NGO package about Ebola (and post-terror attacks)—about the “denial phase”; the radio asking you to “stay home” until “it” subsides; the experience of being locked home by the army; the reassuring domesticity and continued play of children; the empty market street (my empty market street of Saint Denis, occupied by army and police and TV crews); the experts wearing white “PPE” (there against the virus, here to protect evidence about the assault and kamikazes in this little street of my little town where 5000 bullets were shot last night); the President’s voice, that reassures and terrorizes.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.