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Nebraska-made film '#MyCorona' marks history happening right now

Nebraska-made film '#MyCorona' marks history happening right now

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Cooper Tomlinson, as Alex, reviews a scene with Crystal Carson during filming of “#MyCorona.” The Nebraska-made film recounts the first few weeks of the pandemic shutdowns. The film screens on Saturday at The World Theatre Drive-In in Kearney.

KEARNEY — For everyone wishing to get beyond the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the Nebraska-made film, “#MyCorona,” can serve as a touchstone of memories.

In several of the establishing shots early in the film, aerial views of Los Angeles show empty streets, idled suburbs and closed shopping areas. How quickly we forget.

The film seeks to explain how we reacted to the pandemic. Writers Kirk Zeller, Hammad Zaidi and Phil Gorn introduce viewers to an anonymous, substandard apartment building in L.A. at the start of the shutdown. One by one we learn about the residents of the building. Forced to shed their all-consuming careers, they turn inward. Their self-exploration often provides unflattering glimpses of their true lives — and loves.

“#MyCorona” follows Zoe (Mya Hudson) and Alex (Cooper Tomlinson) who live in adjoining apartments, separated by a thin wall — a very thin wall. This wall works as a metaphor for social distancing because the two characters can hear intimate conversations in the next apartment but can’t see each other. As their relationship progresses, the wall also allows Zoe and Alex to converse with each other while maintaining an appropriate distance.

Central Nebraska audiences can view the film at 8 p.m. Saturday at The World Theatre Drive-In at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds. Admission to the screening is $20 in advance or $25 at the gate.

The real life events of the COVID-19 pandemic change so quickly that a film like “#MyCorona” helps viewers recall the craziness of it. At the start of the story, after one of the characters gets laid off from work, we hear the remark, “when this dies down in a couple weeks …” knowing full well that six months later we still must deal with face masks, social distancing and the virus itself. The first dozen scenes provide context with a date stamp, reminding viewers of the chain of events.

And boredom.

The empty hours allow the characters to learn about each other. The stress of the shutdown affects one couple to the point where Randy (Melanie Navarro) and her partner, Xavier (Mark Popejoy), loudly argue to the sound of breaking dishes. Alex and Zoe help diffuse the situation by knocking on the door — and ultimately learning about their neighbors.

Filmed primarily in Ravenna with a cast of Hollywood actors and some Nebraska talent, the production includes subtle references that central Nebraska audiences will understand. Zoe and Alex often verbally spar with each other. At one point Zoe shouts through the wall, “Oh, just watch ‘The Blacklist,’” a reference to the NBC series created by Kearney resident Jon Bokenkamp.

In another scene, a painting of The World Theatre hangs on an apartment wall.

As the story develops, viewers learn more about the residents of the building with one character remarking that the pandemic “closed our building but opened our hearts.”

This character-driven story uses humor, drama and strong emotions to help the audience recall the early stages of the COVID-19 restrictions. While many people might wish to forget that time, a film like “#MyCorona” helps us to connect and better understand the conflicts we face daily. The movie moves slowly through the quiet days of March as the two neighbors begin to fall in love during long and distanced conversations on the roof of their building. Superficial lovers come and go, but Zoe and Alex remain to support each other.

Zeller noted that the movie lacks an official Motion Picture Association film rating. He suggested a PG-13 rating as the story contains adult language about adult topics, but lacks nudity or violence.

The premier on Saturday will feature a version of the 90-minute film that Zeller plans to continue editing. While the shooting of the scenes finished in May, the editing process continues with each viewing. Audiences can view the film knowing that the creative team might make changes.

“#MyCorona” tells a gentle story, set during a perplexing time, that mixes the allure of love during a pandemic with the reality we all experienced for the past six months. In that respect, we can all find a place in this story and in the apartment building filled with people forced to come together. As one character wryly observes, “This pandemic saved my life.”

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