Prod.: SCA-SPCA Digital Betacam. D.: 1′. Bn
Estimates of the total number of military and civilian casualties worldwide during World War I range between fifteen and nineteen million for the years 1914-1918, while the Spanish flu, an influenza pandemic caused by an Avian H1N1 virus, killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide in less than a year, from June 1918 to March 1919. Its second wave – the deadliest – coincided with the ending of the war. Possibly the worst disaster in human history, it seems to have left hardly any trace on film. All I could find is a shot of people wearing facemasks to prevent infection. Was there a ban or censorship to prevent panic and unrest? In Switzerland, the Spanish flu nearly provoked a civil war and subsequently prevented it because too many people were ill or died. Did this present-day plague kill too fast to make it into the news, were people so terror-stricken and numb from mourning that nobody would film the disease?
“When Charlie Chaplin’s Shoulder Arms came to New York in October, Harold Edel, the manager of the Strand Theatre, wrote: ‘We think it a most wonderful appreciation of Shoulder Arms that people should veritably take their lives in their hands to see it’. Edel was dead within a week, of flu” (Gavin Francis, The Untreatable, “London Review of Books”, 25 January 2018).