Following the 6:30 pm screening of Contagion, Mark Smolinski, Director of Global Health Threats with the Skoll Global Threats Fund and a consultant on Contagion will discuss the science behind the film and the ways in which the threat of global pandemic has changed between the eras of the two films in our double feature.
The San Francisco Film Society’s Global Threats Film Series continues with a global pandemic double feature of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (USA 2011) and Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets (USA 1950)!
In a world of mass transit, the transmission of a deadly disease has rapid global reach, as shown in Soderbergh’s expert thriller. Though the MEV-1 virus that devastates the planet in Contagion is fictional, the science behind it is not. To ground the terrifying story of a pandemic in fact, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns worked closely with leading scientists to present a chillingly possible scenario. As the other characters suffer the depredations of the disease in a daze, it is the epidemiologists who are the film’s heroes, from Kate Winslet’s focused calm as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doctor on the front lines to the diligent researcher at the World Health Organization (WHO) played by Marion Cotillard, who is trying to track the virus’s Patient Zero. Made with admirable style and economy, the film educates and informs while also being viscerally entertaining.
Written by Scott Z. Burns. Photographed by Steven Soderbergh. With Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard. 106 min. Distributed by Warner Bros.
In Elia Kazan’s New Orleans–set noirish thriller Panic in the Streets, an illegal immigrant fresh off a boat is killed after a card game with criminals Blackie (Jack Palance) and Raymond (Zero Mostel). The doctor who performs the autopsy on the unidentified corpse immediately notices something awry and calls in Dr. Clinton Reed (Richard Widmark) of the U.S. Heath Service, who diagnoses pneumonic plague. Reed must work with a gruff police captain (Paul Douglas) to try and find the killers—who may be carrying the infection—before they skip town and spread a deadly epidemic. For Kazan, the plague is more of a metaphorical device than an opportunity for a realistic procedural about prevention, but the film provides a stark reminder of how much more complicated it has become to prevent the spread of deadly diseases in the last 60 years.
Date: August 28
Contagion: 6:30 pm
Panic in the Streets: 4:00, 9:15 pm