Alex Gibney’s Surprise Doc About White House’s Failed Covid Response Sets Fall Release

Gibney's film will argue most American deaths and economic pain caused by the virus could have been prevented by better leadership.
Director Alex Gibney poses for photographers at the photo call for the film 'Citizen K' at the 76th edition of the Venice Film Festival in Venice, Italy, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)
Alex Gibney
Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

In a surprise announcement, boutique distributor Neon revealed Thursday that Oscar winner Alex Gibney and his collaborators have been hard at work over the last four months filming a documentary about the White House’s failed response to the pandemic. “Totally Under Control” will be released be Neon in October, with the final date yet to be announced.

The distributor says the doc has a bombshell premise: The film will show that most of the United States’ coronavirus-associated deaths — totaling 190,000 this week — the lockdowns, and most of the economic damage could have been prevented if the federal government had done its job properly.

“The carelessly designed lockdowns and their long-lasting economic effects have led to massive job losses (23 million/14.7 percent in April), widespread hunger, dislocation and a runaway federal deficit. Had the federal government done its job properly — by following clear guidelines in place based on past pandemics — most of the death and destruction could have been avoided,” an official statement from Neon shared. “While the current administration makes its claims for a job well done, the fact is that the US response to COVID-19 is one of the worst, with 4 percent of the world’s population and 21 percent of the deaths.”

Gibney co-directed the film with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, relying on testimony from public health officials and investigative reporting, the filmmakers aim to expose what they describe as a “system-wide collapse caused by a profound dereliction of presidential leadership.”

The trio also produced the film, which was edited by Lindy Jankura and Alex Keipper, with cinematography by Ben Bloodwell and music by Peter Nashel.

"Totally Under Control"
“Totally Under Control”Neon

“With an extraordinary team of collaborators, I was compelled to mount this production when I saw the scale of incompetence and political corruption by the Trump Administration in the face of a global pandemic,” Gibney said in an official statement. “Now we know that by February 7, Trump knew that COVID was, in his words, ‘a deadly virus,’ But instead of working to protect the American people by containing the virus, the current administration was willfully blind to the growing contagion (‘it’s like a miracle; it will disappear,’ said Trump) in hopes that voters wouldn’t notice any problems until after the 2020 election. While the current administration tries to frame the situation as an unavoidable crisis, it is really closer to a crime of negligence. Weirdly enough, I don’t see this as a political film; it’s a film about incompetence and corruption that is totally out of control.”

The planned October release of the film makes this the second of Gibney’s films likely to make waves ahead of the November election. His two-parter for HBO, “Agents of Chaos,” focuses on Russian interference in the 2016 election and will be released on September 23.

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