Films based on the experiences of the pandemic have started coming out. Should not be a surprise as the past year and a half (and more) has really been something we have not seen since the influenza plague (the Great Plague) which occurred after World War I. Sixteen million died then. At this point almost 4 million have died worldwide from COVID-19 with around 175 million having contracted the virus. And it is not over (but hopefully we have gotten over the worst part). Something of this magnitude that has affected all corners of the globe is bound to leave a mark. As such it will show up in the arts.
Leylak, directed by Scott Aharoni and Dennis Latos, is a short film which was shot during the pandemic in New York City. It is the coming out of the short film (17 minutes long) as this is its world premiere. Set in the Queens part of New York City, we get to see and feel the stresses of the residents of the highly populated world-renowned city. We follow an important worker during the height of the pandemic.
A Turkish gravedigger prepares the final resting places for many during the day coming heavily in contact with the toll COVID is taking on the human population. At this early stage, the city which never sleeps is being knocked to its knees by the virus. The U.S. had just reached the six-figure mark in regards to deaths but NYC was disproportionately affected as 25% of the total deaths were there.
Despite his immersion in the pandemic, the gravedigger does not seem able to deal with it within the confines of his own family. His family, like many others, has been touched and he is not facing it. As such, he risks losing the person in the world he cares for the most.
Besides the emotional storyline which all out there will be able to relate to on some level, a strength of the short film is the way it looks. The cinematography is beautiful. New York City is, in many different ways, a bewitching city which has been featured in many a film. But I never get tired of it being used as the backdrop in films. Director of Photography Laura Vallado shoots all the dirty streets, dingy apartments and other areas in a way that they are visually appealing.
A film that packs a punch and is dedicated to all those who have died due to the virus, families who have lost loved ones and those brave folks working on the frontline throughout despite all the uncertainty.