Smallpox 2002

Monday, November 25th: Smallpox 2002: silent weapon, seen in the cinema at the IDFA (88 min.)
This was really a mockumentary instead of a documentary. It is a hypothetical reconstruction of a smallpox attack in 2002.

After an intensive vaccination campaign in 1977, smallpox was believed to be eradicated, one of the greatest triumphs of science. The only two living samples remaining were stored in maximum security military buildings, in America and the Soviet Union. But after the Soviet Union collapsed news came out that samples were missing. Eradicating smallpox made it a very dangerous biological weapon, because smallpox is airborne it can spread like wildfire, anyone who breathes the air of someone who is infected can be infected. After the disease had been conquered, people weren't vaccinated anymore, this could explain, in a very cynical way, why the Soviet Union was so eager to eradicate the virus.

The film narrates an outbreak of the smallpox virus in 2002. We see various people telling about 'what happened' and 'news reports'. The story is that the virus was deliberately released, not by Islam fundamentalists or Al-Quaida, but by a lunatic (so I presume) who infected himself and walked around in New York to infect as many people as possible. Nothing is discovered about his motives except an ambiguous message that he left to be found, a passage of Ezechiel marked in a bible narrating the spread of pestilence, famine and disorder. The outbreak wasn't noticed until it was too late because the (early) symptoms of smallpox resemble the flu. The film shows how the outbreak of a virus creates global chaos and panic, turning democratic countries in totalitarian states with the military guarding the streets and the doors of hospitals and quarantaines. There are by far not enough vaccinations and the production and distribution of them is slow.

Although the outbreak starts in America, there are only one million victims in the US, while in the third world there are sixty million victims. Because of the huge population and high percentage of persons with AIDS the third world suffers the biggest losses. The epidemic paralyses the infrastructures of third world countries and the production and distribution of food and other goods halts, thus people not only die of smallpox but also of famine and various other diseases.

Later on the footage is mixed with a video diary of a boy in Britain who stays inside his house with his mother and sister. The family is later on moved to a quarantaine. When the vaccination of the boy isn't successful he disappears and is never seen again.

The message the filmmakers clearly want to make is that when an outbreak of smallpox occurs, the world will be devastated. Indeed the outbreak of any epidemic will devastate the world. With the advancements in genetic engineering vaccines can be rendered useless and new virii created. Humanity can never breach itself from epidemics sufficiently.
LINK: Official website