“New York Times Presents” is a detailed explanation of our collective trauma from 2020, as well as the societal implications of the crises we have faced.
The documentary is a series of independent documentaries collected into an anthology focusing on the particular crises that have rocked the United States and the world in the year 2020. The episodes currently on Hulu focus on the human experiences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of Breonna Taylor and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests and the climate crises escalating with rampant hurricanes and wildfires.
The first episode centers on New York City healthcare workers, including nurses, doctors and emergency room physicians. It examines the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their personal lives as well as their professional lives. The harsh realities of the pandemic are put front-and-center by showcasing the people on the front lines of this fight and how this affects their families. The intense emotions felt by healthcare workers are often sidestepped for the larger crisis affecting non-healthcare workers. During the pandemic, healthcare workers have not received adequate personal protective equipment and are often endangering their families purely by doing their job and coming home. Resources to help fight the pandemic were not appropriately managed at all levels of government in favor of empty gestures and economic concerns.
The second episode examines the murder of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky. by three Louisville Police officers Jonathan Mattingly, Brett Hankison and Myles Cosgrove on March 13, 2020 and the subsequent upheaval about amid protests focusing on the incident. The documentary episode lays out all the facts of the case and shies completely away from speculation of any kind. It features the people closest to Breonna Taylor, those affected by the publicity of the incident, and commentators on the incident. The words of her family are touching because they again reiterate the deep pain these people feel. I hesitate to even call this a positive aspect of the episode because of the pain exhibited by Breonna Taylor’s close family, including her mother Tamika Palmer who did not hear that her daughter had died until it was on the news the next day. The commentary on the case is handled in a way that is entirely respectful to the life of Breonna Taylor and is informative to an incredible degree.
The third episode turns to the first crisis faced in the world in 2020: the Australian wildfires. In hindsight, this crisis may have foreshadowed the wildfires hitting the west coast of the United States, but it should be noted that the crisis was far worse ecologically than the California wildfires currently are. The documentary episode is told primarily through firsthand testimonials of those who fought in the wildfire crisis. The stories told include those of a family deciding to defend their home in the fire zone, a set of estranged neighbors and a team of firefighters. The footage used is firsthand captured by these people. The images are quite graphic and the horrifying nature of the crisis. The images captured make the California wildfires currently still raging look like a birthday candle. The video footage from the firefighters quite literally looks like it’s taken on another planet. It doesn’t look like Earth at all.
“New York Times Presents” is a documentary series that you should watch to remind you of how far we have come and how far we have to go. It is currently streaming on Hulu. “New York Times Presents” receives an A-plus rating.