Inside a Covid Ward: A Filmmaker’s Experience

We speak to photographer and documentary filmmaker, Andrea Pizzini, about his experiences spending six months inside an Italian Covid ward to record the true realities of the pandemic.  

Last year, Italy became one of the first European countries to be affected by Covid; tragically suffering the highest number of deaths recorded on its soil since World War II. Amidst all the fear and panic, however, conspiracy theories were on the rise: Italian doctors and nurses were accused of making the whole pandemic up.

It was this type of fake news that pushed photographer and documentary filmmaker, Andrea Pizzini, to create a film that would tell the real story.

In our interview above, Pizzini told Johnnie that the journey to creating his documentary started when a friend, who works in an intensive care unit, was attacked by conspiracy theorists on social media.

Image from Pizzini’s photographic story project, “Wavebreakers”

Pizzini wanted to do something to help his friend and at first, this was as simple as taking photos of her at work to show she was real, and truly helping to fight Covid.

By the end of his first month on an intensive care ward, however, things had changed. Pizzini built strong relationships interviewing all the doctors, nurses and staff of the unit, and the photography project turned into a series of short video interviews and stories that racked up thousands of views.

Pizzini eventually went on to spend six months at the unit, capturing the story of staff and patients for a longer film that’s now set to come out this Autumn. He shot the entire documentary handheld, with a Sony a7R IV and one manual focus lens, a Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f/1.2.

Another still from Pizzini’s photographic story project, “Wavebreakers”

Creating an intimate portrait of staff and patients in an environment like an intensive care ward was particularly challenging. This was a very busy workplace, with a lack of space, lots of sounds, and everyone dressed in PPE.

“With the 1.2 I was able to keep the background blurry enough to give privacy and get close enough to people wherever they went,” Pizzini told Johnnie of the experience.

“The workers weren’t static, they were constantly moving, and this setup was perfect for what I really wanted – to be close up with everyone. I didn’t want patients to become numbers. I wanted to give those numbers a face – a story. That was my goal.”

Andrea filming in full PPE. Credit: Mauro Podini.

As to whether this will help reduce the fake news he wanted to fight against in the first place, Pizzini is hopeful that he and the others documenting the realities of the pandemic can help things change.

“I felt really frustrated by the situation as [hospital staff] hear of fake news and there are people telling them that it’s just exaggerated, it’s just strong flu,” he added. “Staff and crew live in two parallel worlds. One in intensive care and one outside in the real world….for us photographers and filmmakers, it’s our job to build a bridge between these two realities.”

What do you think of Pizzini’s work? Be sure to watch the full interview and let us know in the comments below!

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