A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Documentary about families coping with coronavirus outbreak in 2020, examining the specific problems these families face and how they manage them.
Positive Role Models
Features a diverse selection of working-class families living in different parts of Manhattan, including downtown, midtown, Washington Heights, and Harlem. Most subjects and filmmakers are persons of color; many are Latinx and speak Spanish throughout.
Violence & Scariness
Features a few instances of violence, both in the first segment. Footage of police assaulting protesters is shown. A man drives his bike into a group of teenagers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Small amount of sexual content: A couple is seen kissing suggestively as a joke in one segment.
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Profanity is used throughout and includes "f--k," "s--t," "hell," etc.
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Products & Purchases
A surprising amount of product placement: Advertisements consistently happen to find their way into the young filmmakers' shots. For example, a woman sits down at a bus stop in front of a large ad that is in focus and framed perfectly.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
People are occasionally seen drinking alcohol. In one scene, a group of young men appear to be very inebriated.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that COVID Diaries NYC is a short documentary about families living through the coronavirus crisis in Manhattan. Five young filmmakers were chosen to document their lives in 2020, as they dealt with the confusion and displacement of the pandemic. Though the filmmakers are all New Yorkers, their families represent a diverse cross-section of backgrounds and ethnicities. Many of the family members filmed are essential workers, so the filmmakers confront the threat of coronavirus on a daily basis as they watch their family members suffer illness, trauma, and loss. However, COVID Diaries NYC ends up sending mixed messages about precautions taken to prevent the spread of the virus, such as mask-wearing and social distancing. And many of the stories end up unresolved. For example, multiple people are shown to be grappling with mental illness without showing any attempts to address or treat it, with the only follow-up being a message from the filmmakers after the credits that says everyone is doing great.
Is It Any Good?
The cinema verité style of documentary, which aims for an objective slice of life without artifice, has mostly fallen out of fashion in favor of narrative documentaries featuring talking heads and archival footage. COVID Diaries NYC is a bit of a throwback in that respect, as it values access to the real lives of real families above all else. Watching a diverse group of working-class families cope with the unique problems the pandemic presents could have been powerful, but the amateur filmmaking puts the documentary at a huge disadvantage. Though each segment is less than 10 minutes long, the segments struggle to keep your attention. Nearly everyone is awkward in front of the camera, and they respond by withholding emotion, joking glibly, or trying to manufacture drama. When powerful moments do happen, there's no follow-through to see if the families respond to or recover from them. Worst of all, the filmmakers send mixed messages about preventing the spread of the virus, as they are inconsistent about wearing masks and social distancing. The documentary succeeds in capturing a slice of life, but it's too small a slice, capturing families' struggles but not their resilience.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.