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    Hospital on the outskirts of humanity // The series “Five days after the disaster” is released

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    Starting August 12, Apple TV+ streaming shows Five Days at Memorial, based on a true story. Its heroes are doctors and patients at a New Orleans hospital struggling to survive Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed. Narrated by Yulia Shagelman.

    Five Days After the Disaster begins with archival footage of Hurricane Katrina newscasts and a caption with the date: September 11 2005. 13 days have passed since the cataclysm, and boats with representatives of special services are floating along the flooded streets of New Orleans, assessing the damage. They are surrounded by terrible pictures – destroyed houses, abandoned semi-submerged cars, desperate graffiti on the walls: “Lord, save us.” When the team reaches the empty Baptist Memorial Hospital, an even more terrible sight awaits them – forty-five bodies of patients who did not live to evacuate are stacked in the hospital chapel. At this moment, it becomes clear that this story will not have a happy ending.

    The series is based on the documentary book of the same name by journalist Sheri Fink, published in 2013 on the same topic for The New York Times Magazine, Fink won the Pulitzer Prize). Immediately after the release of the rights to the book, producer Scott Rudin, who planned to adapt it for a feature film, then Ryan Murphy wanted to make the events in Memorial Hospital the theme of the next season of his anthology series American Crime Story, but could not find the right approach. As a result, the project was picked up by one of the writers and producers of the Lost series, Carlton Cuse, and as a co-author, he attracted the Oscar winner for the screenplay for the film 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley. And these are, perhaps, the most suitable people for such work: the first one became adept at showing human characters in extreme circumstances, and the strict, almost documentary style of the second allows you to convey on the screen fear, pain, impotent anger – but also strength of mind, stamina and determination – without excessive emotional speculation.

    The overall picture here is made up of the points of view of different characters. This is the collected and professional Susan Mulderick (Cherry Jones), assigned to coordinate the emergency operations of the hospital, who will learn that in case of a flood there is no separate clear plan and she will need to improvise as she goes. Determined to stay with their patients in any situation, Drs. Anna Pou (Vera Farmiga), Horace Baltz (Robert Pyne) and Bryant King (Cornelius Smith Jr.), whose ideas about medical ethics will be seriously tested in just a few days. Pregnant Diane Robichaux (Julie Ann Emery), head of staff at a private palliative care clinic (located in the same hospital building, but operating independently), who, along with her staff, has had to take care of the weakest and most helpless. As well as other doctors, nurses, patients, their relatives and family members who managed to survive the hurricane impressively shown in the first series without much loss – but they were not ready for what happened next.

    When the water from the broken city dams flooded the generators, the hospital, having lost electricity and communications, with drying up supplies of drinking water and food, almost without any outside help, turned from a place of hope and salvation into a dark and fetid branch of hell. This astonishingly rapid degradation is shown in the series with convex, almost physiological clarity: close-ups of exhausted faces, sweat-soaked clothes, claustrophobically cramped corridors, the walls of which seem to shrink around the characters, a sharp montage that emphasizes the nervous, overwrought atmosphere on the verge of general hysteria. For four days, the hospital staff made a heroic effort, manually lifting stretchers and wheelchairs with patients to the roof, where the rare rescue helicopters landed. But on the fifth day, when the National Guard finally showed up with an emergency evacuation order, they had to face an impossible choice – who to save and who to leave. And some of the doctors took this choice upon themselves, deciding to dispose of the lives entrusted to them in their own way.

    The first five episodes of the series are a detailed reconstruction of what happened in the memorial hospital immediately time and after the hurricane, when we gradually learn why people died there and who is responsible for their deaths. The next three take the disaster film into an investigative film, shifting the focus to the authorities’ attempts to figure it all out and find the culprits — or rather shift the blame from one shoulder to the other and quickly forget what happened. These episodes are inferior in rhythm and tension to the previous ones, but, on the other hand, the abrupt change of register itself well conveys the feeling of confusion that gripped Americans after Katrina, when the affected city and its inhabitants were largely left to their own devices, without government assistance and support. And to someone, but to Russian viewers, this feeling, alas, is even too familiar.

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