Viral – Hot Docs 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic is depicted through the social media vlogs of 7 members of Generation Z in . Now in their early 20s, the members of Generation Z is the first one to grow up with social media. Seven YouTubers begin 2020 like any other year, including Nathaniel (@Nathaniel Drew), who had just moved to Paris, Tina (@Tinie Planet), who travels across Europe in her motorhome, and Jessica (@BB Tequila), a stripper and single mother about to launch a cosmetics brand. However, news of the coronavirus soon hits, which will proceed to disrupt the lives of these social media savvy 20-somethings.

With Viral, filmmakers Udi Nir and Sagi Bornstein create a documentary about 2020 told entirely via vlogs posted by various YouTubers. Some of these YouTubers, such as Shakir (@Mallu Traveler) find that their subscriber count spikes over the year, others such as Cassandra (@CASS AND JAY) and Riley (@Riley Tench) both find themselves stuck on cruise ships, while Justin (@Justin Marcus) observes how the pandemic develops in New York City. Each of these members of Generation Z provides a different perspective on how the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts our lives.

I should probably start off by admitting that Viral made me feel quite old at 39, as the film features subjects with an average age of 23, who all run relatively successful YouTube channels, which only grow in viewership over the course of 2020. While Viral offers a unique perspective of the COVID-19 pandemic, it also questions the true impact of the social media generation, particularly in the story of Nathaniel Drew, who begins to question YouTube's impact on his mental health. Altogether, Viral makes for an interesting look back at 2020, as told by the people who chose to share their lives online.

Viral is streaming as part of the 2021 Hot Docs Film Festival

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

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