The Atlantic Selects
10 Days Later: What Italians Wish They Had Known
Mar 16, 2020
When the Italian media began reporting on the increased community spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, Olmo Parenti, like many Italian citizens, didn’t take the threat of the pandemic too seriously. “My friends and I were almost mocking the few people who believed the issue was serious from the get-go,” Parenti, a young filmmaker, told me.
Just days later, Parenti felt like he was living in a different version of reality—a dystopian one. The number of positive cases had spiked dramatically. The entire country had shut down. The economy took a nosedive. Hospitals, overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, were being forced to make impossible utilitarian decisions: Which critical patients would receive lifesaving artificial ventilation, while the others would effectively be left to die?
Parenti and his friends were disturbed by the fact that they had severely underestimated the situation, a perspective that perhaps contributed to the spread of the virus. “We read in the news that the U.S., England, Germany, and France were all taking the COVID-19 progression just as lightly as we had,” Parenti said. “We decided we had to redeem ourselves in some way.”
Together with other members of his filmmaking collective, Parenti put out a call for citizens across the country to film themselves in quarantine. “We asked them to talk in first person to the camera,” he said, “and give themselves advice based on their own past behavior.”
The resulting film, 10 Days, features messages from dozens of terrified Italians. The videos play as if warnings from the future. Like Parenti, many of the people who submitted quarantine videos chide themselves for not having taken precautionary measures, such as self-isolation and social distancing, as early as they could have.
“This isn’t all bullshit like you thought,” says one young man.
Another woman, who is seen wearing a face mask, admits that she used to make fun of people wearing masks. “The worst-case scenario? That’s exactly what will happen,” she adds.
As though to underscore the importance of quarantine compliance across age groups, a teenager in the video reveals an eye-opening fact: “There are currently kids our age who are intubated and in intensive care.”
Many experts believe that the United States is just 10 days behind the level of severity of the pandemic in Italy. We are at a crucial inflection point, according to the surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, and the time to prepare for what’s coming is now.
“This has been a humbling experience,” Parenti said. “But the cool thing about mistakes is that you can learn from other people’s—so learn from ours and don’t underestimate this.”
By Sunday, 24,747 cases had been diagnosed in Italy, up from 21,157 on Saturday—a record-breaking single-day increase. The country also reported 368 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 1,809 nationwide.
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Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.