The film’s producers were inspired by the resourcefulness of Jafar Panahi, an Iranian director who made the 2011 documentary “This is Not A Film” while under house arrest in Tehran. Panahi, who co-produced “Storm,” starts things with a look at his life under pandemic stay-at-home orders. While his family discusses the coronavirus with some concern, the segment looks much like Panahi’s 2011 feature, including a return appearance by the filmmaker’s enormous pet iguana Iggy, who seems agitated as he looks through windows at the world out of reach.
Fiction shorts explore familiar pandemic challenges. Anthony Chen’s piece tells the story of a young Chinese couple (Zhou Dongyu and Zhang Yu) trying to juggle working from home and caring for a toddler; the 20-minute narrative covers a 30-day stretch, and the couple’s relationship becomes strained. In a vignette from “The Green Knight” director David Lowery, Catherine Machovsky plays a Texas woman who, after discovering a cache of old family letters, goes in search of a body buried during the flu epidemic a century ago. It’s a promising concept that turns maudlin when the corpse talks in a boy’s voice, milking the sentiment out of an already fraught situation.
While fear of infection is on the minds of many, “Citizenfour” director Laura Poitras raises concerns about the pandemic’s effect on the surveillance society. Her documentary short warns that contact tracing software used to track covid-19 exposure has been developed by a company whose products have put her fellow journalists in danger. And do we really want law enforcement agencies to have access to such tools?
Traversing different countries with different restrictions, “Storm” doesn’t exactly follow a throughline, but from Panahi’s iguana to the haunting final segment, the filmmakers seem to remind us that nature is resilient. Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Tropical Malady”) closes the film with the mesmerizing “Night Colonies,” which documents the insect life buzzing under fluorescent lights on what appears to be an abandoned bed — belonging, it’s implied, to a victim of the pandemic.
“The Year of the Everlasting Storm” doesn’t end with catharsis, but even insects may have something to teach humanity: to endure the best way we can, however minuscule we may feel in the face of an incomprehensible world.
Unrated. At Landmark’s E Street Cinema. Contains sexual situations. 121 minutes.