International Life Column
By Sam Wang | Illustration by Xixi Qin
As an international student from China, it was difficult for me to fly back home during Block 7 and 8. Therefore, I stayed on campus and tried to produce something that could be meaningful to both myself and to people around me. The docu-series “2020 Cancelled” has three episodes so far, and there will be at least two more in the next two weeks. It is currently available on YouTube.
I started filming the reactions of my classmates right after Colorado College announced the distance learning policy on the Tuesday before spring break. I didn’t think this footage would turn into anything meaningful until I asked students in the CC Chinese international students’ group if any of them wanted to work together on a COVID-19 documentary. Elizabeth Liu ’21 and Robert Yan ’22 showed their interest. When we met together, concrete ideas for the docu-series started to emerge. During the prolonged spring break, as we all had nowhere to stay but campus, we contacted several students who were packing or staying on campus and filmed them.
The precise theme of this series was not clear until I started editing the footage. I realized it was hard for me to tell this story in an “objective,” classical documentary way, since I am also involved and affected by this pandemic. Therefore, I went for a more personal, conversational tone in the editing and used my voice for narration.
We hoped to go to some hospitals to explore the lives of people who are combating the virus at the “frontline,” but the risk of being infected and the lack of access to film restricted any filming to the people around us. As it turns out, there are lots of valuable stories to tell in this community of which I have been a part for four years.
I didn’t have a clear image of the audience in mind, but the films seemed to be liked by many in the community, as well as my friends and family. The message I want to convey is that I simply want to tell some daily life stories — stories not about life and death, but about human connections and how this pandemic is changing our everyday lives. I believe that the daily aspect of life is also important in understanding history. There have already been many dramatic, alarming stories on social media. I believe that “mundane stories” also have certain value in this time of anxiety and fear.
Personally, producing this series has made me reconnect with the CC community, despite social distancing. I have never felt more attached to this community than through meeting all these amazing human beings in this time of crisis. There’s a saying in Chinese: “患难见真情,” meaning people show who they really are in the time of crisis. I have felt that the CC community has shown great empathy and resilience in this uncertain time. The more I film, the more I understand that the essence of a good documentary is celebrating humanity.
Since this pandemic has not nearly come close to an end, it is hard for me to say how and where this series will proceed. It could become a record of history that people, especially people in CC and the communities around it, look into. But personally, I am just doing whatever I can do to make my time in quarantine more meaningful.
I hope everyone stays healthy and resilient, and I can’t wait to hug everyone when this crisis is over.