Thursday, September 04, 2014

Television Spotlight: Influenza 1918

Tonight on PBS America, there's a very interesting documentary being shown called Influenza 1918. I was sent a copy to view beforehand and I was really intrigued by what unfolded during the one hour film. This is a chapter in world history that saw the deaths of millions worldwide and this film documents the effect that this harsh sickness had on life in America in the early 20th century.

The sheer number of people who were killed by this epidemic is staggering. There are estimates that the amount of people who perished numbered three times as many as those who had just been lost in World War I. When the influenza of 1918 hit it was during the autumn as the conflict of the war was dying down.

This documentary by Robert Kenner tells the story of the disease in the United States showing up within the ranks of soldiers at an army base near Boston. And through a series of circumstances it kept spreading within the population like wildfire. The harshness is vividly displayed through archival photographs of over-capacity hospitals and mountains of coffins waiting for the latest victim. Incidentally, there was a shortage of coffins during this time since there were so many people dying every single day.

One thing that I found very haunting in the documentary was the rhyme that children of the time made up and sang on the playgrounds. It spoke of having a pet bird named Enza and they opened the window and in flew Enza. It spelled 'In-flu-enza'. Hearing the rhyme sang by children's voices in that sing-song way was chilling and it was very effective in conveying the fact that the epidemic spared very few. Many children died.

Influenza 1918 is a very informative documentary and I learned a lot from it. It did an excellent job of showing the plight of those who lived during this time. This film is a good reminder about the fragility of life. Even though the subject matter is serious, I found it to be very enlightening.  

Influenza 1918 will be shown tonight on PBS America in the UK at 10:15pm on Sky channel 534 and Virgin Media 243.

*Disclaimer: I was sent a copy of this film for review. All opinions are mine.

No comments: