October 20, 2021

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‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ Review: Tracing a Pandemic’s Arc

‘Convergence: Courage in a Crisis’ Review: Tracing a Pandemic’s Arc

A sweeping chronicle of the global fight against the coronavirus, “Convergence: Courage in a Crisis,” directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, feels too much like we’re sitting down to watch the pandemic unfold all over again.

With eight stories from different countries — the United States, Britain, Brazil, China, India, Iran and Peru — the documentary is so sprawling as to be overwhelming. The observational approach of its segments, which trace the arc of the coronavirus throughout 2020, is grueling to watch. And the film is intercut with cheesy covers of inspirational songs that gave me traumatizing flashbacks to the infamous celebrity “Imagine” video.

Some truly stirring examples of individual grit and compassion manage to shine through, however. In a neat narrative maneuver, Einseidel draws us into seemingly ordinary stories of courage, only to reveal them as extraordinary. We follow Hassan Akkad, a cleaner for the National Health Service in London, and learn that he was tortured in Syria and has a phobia of hospitals. There’s also Renata Alves, a volunteer with an ambulance service in the Paraisópolis favela of São Paulo, Brazil, who reveals that she was formerly incarcerated and suffers prejudice even as she provides an essential service.

Natural and political crises emerge as bedfellows in these stories, culminating in a rousing montage of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. Yet the critical edge of the film feels blunted by platitudes (“Opportunities are born from crises,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization), not to mention the exhaustion viewers will likely feel in reliving early memories of the still-ongoing pandemic for nearly two hours.

Convergence: Courage in a Crisis
Rated R for up-close glimpses of sickness and death. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. In theaters and on Netflix.