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  • Romy Kraus

'Totally Under Control' - Interview with Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger

Totally Under Control paints a devastating picture of the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Oscar winner Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger joined forces to direct the film, springing into action to release it by October. “We moved at lightning speed,” Gibney says. “All three of us were working nonstop.”

“There are moments that we look at in the film where the administration could have sort of righted the ship, released more funds, released the Defense Production Act to get more companies making more PPE, and that didn’t happen,” co-director Suzanne Hillinger

“We’re still seeing effects of that now, unfortunately.”

Gibney was asked whether the administration’s failures resulted from incompetence or willful negligence.

“It was clearly incompetence because the Trump administration had playbooks…that they themselves designed…for exactly what to do in exactly this situation” - Alex Gibney

“We show in the film that by February 7th Donald Trump knew—as he told Bob Woodward in an interview that was recorded—how deadly was the virus. If you know how deadly was the virus, how could you not put in place a plan that they knew how to execute? Unless you’re doing that deliberately.”

Harutyunyan says the Trump administration is still failing to take appropriate action to stop Covid-19. “The numbers are worse than when we were making the film,” she says. “There is really no justification to why we’re doing so badly, other than that the government just doesn’t care.”


On January 20th, 2020 the US and South Korea both discovered their first cases of COVID-19. However, 9 months later, the novel Coronavirus has claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans and caused staggering economic damage, while in South Korea, there were no significant lockdowns and, in an urbanized population of 51 million, only 344 lives have been lost. Where did we go wrong? As the presidential election nears, Americans are increasingly enraged by a lack of clear leadership, endemic political corruption and left to wonder how did the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world manage to fail so thoroughly in its response to a global pandemic? Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, directing with Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, interrogates this question and its devastating implications in Totally Under Control. With damning testimony from public health officials and hard investigative reporting, Gibney exposes a system-wide collapse caused by a profound dereliction of Presidential leadership. It will be a generation before we know the full extent of the damage wrought by this pandemic, but Totally Under Control will stand as the definitive account of the Trump administration’s incompetence, corruption and denial in the face of this global pandemic.

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