The Northwest Film Center will be screening “Totally Under Control” until Nov. 15. Tickets are $5.99. (Northwest Film Center)

2020 has been an incredibly chaotic year in America . As every month passes, it seems like the outside world becomes more tumultuous, with old issues worsening exponentially. 

And while this year will be remembered for many things — the protests in the name of black victims such as George Floyd or Breonna Taylor will certainly be in history books for years to come — no issue will be as undoubtedly iconic to 2020 as the emergence and spread of COVID-19

With a current total of 1.15 million deaths, COVID-19 has proven to be no laughing matter.

However, many countries are starting to see a positive downfall in the number of cases and are beginning to return to normalcy. New Zealand, for example, is starting to hold rugby matches once again to packed stadiums of fans after practically eradicating COVID-19 from the country. So then, how is the US, one of the richest and most powerful countries in the world, failing to reach those same milestones? According to the team behind a new documentary film “Totally Under Control,” the writing was on the wall well in advance; we just ignored the warning signs.

To put it briefly, “Totally Under Control,” directed by acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney, is one of the most impressive — and certainly most important — documentaries to come out this year. An inquisition into the shady politics that lead to the US’s failure in containing COVID-19, it works as a tour guide showing us every misstep along the way from January into April. In this period of time, Gibney and his crew leave no stone unturned, showing how our government, and more specifically the Trump administration, have misguided our nation from almost the very beginning.

One of the most impressive aspects of the movie is how it handles the high-wire act of interviewing and gathering information during a pandemic where face-to-face contact is mostly discouraged. To do this, Gibney and his crew had to invent a new way to speak to their sources: they delivered small cameras to their places of living and set up barriers to be safe and get quality footage, an obstacle previously unfaced by documentaries before the pandemic.

It is through these sources that we learn the dark, corrupt chronicle of events leading up to the situation we find ourselves in today. Gibney and his crew speak to several high level professionals including professors, doctors and reporters, each with an inside story to tell about what they witnessed during the first crucial months of battling COVID-19. 

While things started well, with preparations ready, it’s not long before we see the state of our nation rapidly plummet due to politicians interfering with the professionals. We watch as a playbook to handle pandemics is thrown away, as Trump disbands the Global Health Security team, as the CDC provides scientists with flawed early test kits, as a leader denies the deadliness of this virus to the face of the American people. It’s a story that’s as astounding as it is frustrating.

“Totally Under Control” is essential viewing for any American citizen. It’s an informative firsthand account of the sickening events that have transpired this year as well as a warning of what happens when the powerful push the professionals to the side. May it help to open the eyes of the public so that it never happens again.

“Totally Under Control” is currently viewable on Hulu:

Reilly Smith


  1. SwiftChat Live Chat App on November 9, 2020 at 5:57 am

    Interesting post. Documentaries can certainly help you understand different perspectives.