I was supposed to be at a Film Festival in Joburg, South Africa on Thursday, March 12th for a screening and Q&A session for my short film Raging Cult. On the 10th, the day I was supposed to fly out, France only had 1,784 cases and 33 deaths. People told me it would be OK, South Africa didn’t yet have any cases and air travel was normal.
Luckily, Air France was offering free cancellations already, and I listened to my gut. I felt it wasn’t safe to travel even if all was “normal” back then. By the time I would have gotten back from this trip on March 18th, Europe had closed its borders to visitors, the U.S. had banned non-citizens and told Americans to stay put for an “indefinite period of time” and France was on lockdown. By March 18th (the day i was supposed to come back), there were 9,134 cases and 264 deaths. Today, Sunday 22nd March, France has 14,459 cases and 562 deaths.
Since then, a film festival in Oxford was cancelled (despite the UK operating mostly as usual), my TEDx Talk in Montpellier was cancelled …blah, blah. You know, LIFE IS CANCELLED.
FRENCH NEWS TODAY SUNDAY
I was listening to the radio this morning, and they are using drones to surveil the towns, they are checking you are in your primary residence (as opposed to your second homes) because hospitals are built to the capacity of the primary residences, and they don’t want the smaller towns to be overloaded with patients.
Turn of Events Pre-Quarantine
President Macron announced that all cafes and bars would be closed by Saturday midnight. Let’s just say people made the most of it, and as a result of the amount of people out the next day, we went into a “confinement total” as they say in French the following Tuesday. We didn’t learn the lessons from Italy. Here is a summary. You can read the entire post here.
I started the night last night walking around Montmartre, my neighborhood in Paris, taking photos of the barely filled cafes, empty tourist shops and abandoned laundromats. It was our last evening for at least a month with any sort of cafes, social life or entertainment. I wanted to capture this evening.
I read that even during World War II, cafes in Paris remained open, so as angry as I felt walking around seeing more and more cafes bustling, imagining the silent enemy that is the Coronavirus attacking the irresponsible French as they grasped onto the last hours of their social lives, I couldn’t help but also feel a real solidarity with them.
The day AFTER the terrorist attacks in November 2015 where 138 people died in brutal shootings outside of cafes, the French hit the streets and the cafes in protest that any terrorists would take away their ways of lives. This was HOW they fought against any signs of oppression, so the idea that they had to stay inside was impossible to grasp.
I got home shaking. I was glad I went out but also terrified I had spent the last two weeks confined to my apartment writing the last draft of my novel only to catch the virus in the final evening of freedom.
Sunday, March 15th, 2020
The cafes were closed, but the parks were still open. France confirmed the next day what else was closed – meeting rooms, museums, conference halls, theatres, cafes. Sunday being the most beautiful day of the year in Paris didn’t help – people went out in hordes. I went out to take photos.
I live right next to the Sacré Coeur, and as you can see, it was full. Rumors were flying that since Parisians weren’t taking this seriously, that the French government was going to lock us down. Couples were sunning, friends were drinking, and tourists were taking selfies. There were security guards, but
I tried to make light of it by saying we needed to start competing with the Italians for ways to creatively express our emotions, but inside I was feeling overwhelmed and panicked. I had already quarantined myself for the past few weeks writing, slowly stocking my shelves, slowly listening to news as it creeped over here. I had been taking this seriously, and now it was upon us.
More video summary:
Monday, March 16th, 2020
Shit is getting real. President Macron will be speaking at 20h (that’s 8PM for American time keepers), and rumors abound that we will be locked down for 45 days. I stopped drinking on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) just because I wanted to focus this year on getting in shape, finishing my novel and my feature film (to name a few things). I decided to have a beer to calm my nerves. It was needed.
You can watch more on my video summary below:
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