As Election Days looms and a new COVID-19 spike seems to be underway, Neon has decided to stream Alex Gibney’s Totally Under Control for free through November 3rd. The documentary covers America’s botched response to the pandemic, and the numerous failures that have left us in this current unfortunate state. It’s bizarre yet fitting that the two big surprise releases before the 2020 US election are a documentary about the failures of the Trump administration and the Borat sequel.
Totally Under Control is another solid and sobering film from Gibney, who you probably know already from his acclaimed docs Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Dark Side, and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief. Gibney and his interview subjects lay out all of the Trump administration’s numerous forms of ineptitude while skewering the myth of market-based solutions to public health crises.
Totally Under Control also feels like South Korean competence porn as it shows that country’s extensive testing in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. I wish that there’d been focus on New Zealand’s response to the pandemic as well, but perhaps that’s something for another documentary to explore. Maybe it speaks to my desire for any competence porn given that I live in a big dumb crumbling country.
Throughout Totally Under Control, numerous doctors and scientists lament the complete mishandling of the virus. They similarly can’t fathom the politicization of mask wearing, and how a certain segment of the American public refuses to sacrifice and work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The recent news about higher infection rates and overwhelmed hospitals make Gibney’s film a grim watch. I quoted a Rebecca Solnit essay in my review of David Byrne’s American Utopia that is worth repeating here: “We are in the middle and the end is not in sight.”
Watch Totally Under Control now. Please wear a mask, be responsible, and be sure to vote.