Out of Hand Theatre film, 'Comfort,' addresses vaccine hesitancy

Actor Marlon Andrew Burnley in the film "Comfort." (Courtesy of: Out of Hand Theater)

In the two-and-a-half years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, over 6 million people across the globe have lost their lives to the deadly disease, and millions more still live with the long-term effects after contracting it. Fortunately, vaccine and booster rollouts have resulted in fewer deaths and milder cases, though the threat of COVID-19 remains.

To continue building confidence in vaccines, Out of Hand Theater created a project, “The Time has Chosen Us.” One of the films addressing vaccine hesitancy is “Comfort” by Amina S. McIntyre, who joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk more about her film. 

Interview highlights:

A project documenting public sentiment around the virus and vaccine:

“We sat down, and we talked to some persons in the hotbed areas where COVID-19 really kind of ravaged,” said McIntyre. “Some of the stories that we received were both heartbreaking and heartwarming in a lot of different ways. There were stories, for example, of interviews of people who had lost up to eight to 10 people in two weeks, and talking about their families, or even their own residual impact and how COVID has impacted themselves; for example, lingering brain fog.”

“Using that source material, I decided that it would be great to have a conversation around a family being, not necessarily all being for the vaccine because I wanted it to be a mix of, it’s like, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ meets ‘Black-ish,’ I think is kind of where we’re going with it…

We wanted it to be more than a PSA,” said McIntyre. “Everyone, especially African-American families, had some genuine concerns around the vaccine, especially related back to the Tuskegee experiments, et cetera. And so we wanted to really portray this particular family, and so the family’s last name is ‘Comfort,’ and so the title became ‘Comfort.'”

Honest concerns within a hotspot community:

“It wasn’t as if they didn’t know someone who had it or if they had didn’t have it themselves. So for some people, it was, ‘Oh, well, I had it, and it wasn’t that bad when I had it.’ For others, it was also just, ‘Even though I’ve had it and I’ve seen it, I just don’t fully trust what’s going to happen next, and we just don’t have enough information,'” McIntyre explained. “There were just a lot of different conversations around, ‘Is this actually necessary?’ ‘Are we moving too fast?’ ‘Is this something that in about 10 or 15 years, we’re going to find the vaccine wasn’t just tested properly?'” 

Based on the true story of the Comfort family:

“Tia, who is one of the daughters of the Comfort family and who currently takes care of her father, is hoping to get the family back together for a family fun day, and this is the first family fun day that they’ve had since the pandemic started. And it just navigates this particular day of games, and the persons who in the family were invited, who weren’t invited, around the vaccine itself; and all of the secrets and the conversations that come up with a family that comes back together after having been apart for a couple years,” McIntyre said.

“These are actual decisions that a lot of people really did make when this came about,” she added. “I think it brings up just how families really operate because issues do divide families, and secrets do divide families.”

“Comfort” was released as part of the vaccine confidence program “The Time has Chosen Us,” presented by Out of Hand Theater. “Comfort” is available at https://www.ourtimeovercovid.com/