Inside the Abu Dhabi studio behind Hollywood film Contagion
Before 2020, Steven Soderbergh's Contagion would have come across as yet another thriller, a product of a bleak world. Today, that story has changed. Owing to some major similarities between the fiction portrayed in the film and the reality we are living now, the film's popularity has peaked manifold. Abu Dhabi-based production company Image Nation, that had co-produced the film, has been a witness to this unprecedented surge in interest. "Since early stages of the pandemic, Contagion has had a resurgence of popularity that really speaks to its lasting quality," says Ben Ross, chief content officer at Image Nation. "It was inspired by a different coronavirus, the 2002-04 SARS outbreak, and the 2009 flu, and one of the most impressive things about its storyline was the commitment to scientific accuracy, with a team of scientists and WHO representatives consulting on the script."
Ross attributes these factors to why the film is resonating en masse with audiences today. "To me, this represents the power of storytelling to bring us together and help us make sense of our world," he says, adding that the film demonstrates the endurance and determination of the human spirit in the face of adversity.
So, what got Image Nation interested in the script in the first place? "Its intriguing storyline - which seemed just real enough that it could happen - and impressive cast. Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Elliot Gould, Bryan Cranston and Marion Cotillard are all incredibly talented actors who truly brought this story to life. Little did any of us know we'd be living through a similar event less than a decade later."
In recent months, stars like Winslet and Damon have attempted to spread awareness on the novel coronavirus using a lot of information that was part of the film.
"We've seen a huge surge in interest in the film since the very early stages of the pandemic. Traffic to our website page on Contagion has increased exponentially and demand for online screenings and streaming is high. Most importantly, many people who were involved in the film have used its message to remind audiences in affected areas to follow public health and medical advice and stay at home," says Ross. "If our work is helping people understand this pandemic and stay safe by following the proper guidelines, we're very proud."