Voices Of The Pandemic

A film by Milton Raposo

The 2020 Bermuda Biennial provides an engaging platform from which our island’s artists can tell their story. The Biennial  programmes which accompany the exhibition are focused on expanding this platform, creating dynamic opportunities for our communities to share their stories.

Voices Of The Pandemic is a project by artist and filmmaker Milton Raposo, founder of Method Media and former deputy chair of the Bermuda Arts Council, which explores life in Bermuda amid the coronavirus outbreak and its effect on our communities. His previous projects include FABRIC: Portuguese History In Bermuda and Osbourne’s Day Out: North Rock Tank to North Rock.

Shortly before the pandemic hit, the BNG received a grant from the Department of Community Affairs’ Cultural Legacy Fund to record the voices of the community. In light of the abrupt changes that Covid-19 has brought to life in Bermuda BNG has decided to direct the grant towards funding this important project as part of the 2020 Bermuda Biennial programming.  

The project invites you, the public, to share your experience of day to day life in these extraordinary times. The theme for this year’s Bermuda Biennial, Let Me Tell You Something, inspired by a quote from the late author and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, asks artists to tell their own story. Now we invite you to tell yours.

We sat down with filmmaker Milton Raposo to find out more about the project and how people can get involved.

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: When did you start working on the project and why?

MR: I started working on this project in mid-March, around the time that the uncertainty started to be apparent. Originally the idea was to record everything related to the crisis, but that wasn’t practical considering social distancing and other mitigation efforts. As the situation unfolded, it became apparent to me that a part of this was not being documented and that is the direct effect the pandemic has had on the average citizen, whether it be someone who contracted the virus or someone who has lost their job. There has been a lot about essential workers and some capturing of behind the scenes work but not a lot about the direct effects on people. To me, that is more interesting. 

BNG: The pandemic has affected us all in ways that are both universal and uniquely personal. How do you intend to capture this?

MR: The title, Voices of the Pandemic, speaks directly to that. There are so many threads to be pulled on but knowing what is emotionally unique to Bermuda while also relating to what is happening around the world is key. Our pandemic stories have a uniqueness but ithose stories also relate to what is happening to people in other places like Italy or Spain.  

BNG: The reverberations of the pandemic and its impact on how we live our lives will be long term and will evolve over time. How will the documentary capture this multi-stage process?

MR: My intent is to avoid making a “recap” documentary as such but instead to capture what is current and in the moment. Right now, there are people who are sick or unemployed with stories that are unfolding. It sort of pens me in with how I’m going to deal with those individuals down the line, if I bring them back, but that could also be interesting to the narrative. As Bermuda gets back to normal, I expect new stories and developments. We’ve all had a fundamental shift, or disruption, in our ways of thinking and every day practices and I expect stories to be revealed because of that.   

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: What are the most interesting stories that you have recorded so far?

MR: Without revealing too much, one story is of one of the first people to get Covid-19; one of the imported cases. Another is of a tourism professional with a staff of 15 who didn’t even get the chance to gear up for the 2020 tourist season and now fears that tourism might be largely written off this year. Another interesting story I am working on getting is that of an essential worker in a position of prominence within their organisation who lost a family member to Covid-19 but they had to be on the job. And so while they were trying to protect Bermuda as a whole, their family suffered a direct loss.

BNG: What are you looking for in terms of submissions and potential interviewees?

MR: If people have been impacted by the pandemic in any way at all, they should reach out. No story is too small. People have to be comfortable with going in front of a camera and telling their story. I promise not to make it a long drawn out affair. Also, if they wish to send in a video describing what their current situation is like, they can. The camera phone has proven to be very useful tool! I’m trying to avoid lifestyle clips however. 

BNG: Are there are any stories that you are keen to capture that you haven’t yet managed to get on film?

MR: Yes, the hoax believer. There is a large segment out there that either believes this all a hoax or, for whatever reason, is not taking this seriously at all. Looking at social media, it appears there are a lot of people like that. I believe that voice should be included.

Photograph: Milton Raposo

BNG: What do you hope to achieve with the film?

MR: A few things. I’m a big believer in documenting periods of time of national importance and telling untold or underreported stories. I think this film will feed directly into the theme of this year’s Biennial, Let Me Tell You Something, which reveals some of these stories.

It’s cliché to say but I hope it will document a period of time in Bermuda’s history where we joined a global effort to push back against a serious threat to peoples’ lives and livelihoods. It’s easy to joke about the laid back attitude associated with island life but Bermuda hasn’t seen a threat like this since possibly World War II, or more recently the 1970s riots.

Bermuda is a great example of survival – from figuring out how to capture rain water, to riding out hurricanes better than anyone else, to being home to insurers who bail other global communities out of their own national disasters. In that sense, Bermuda routinely punches above her weight and reveals her own powerful, special voice.

If you would like to take part in the documentary please contact Submissions are open to Bermudians living both on island and abroad.