Attention at Tension

Azalia Muchransyah (Indonesia/United States)

During the lockdowns and curfews, video diaries became an important means for understanding the uneven and unequal effects of the pandemic on different populations. Medical staff offered an emotional sense of the urgent work done in the ICUs and ERs that distanced statistics tended to erase in easy-to-consume graphics. The lockdown of Wuhan coincided with celebration of the New Year throughout China, effecting millions, but lockdowns everywhere also coincided with personal celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, births, and other occasions where friends and family gather. 

Attention at Tension is a short desktop film that chronicles the pandemics interruptions in the life of an Indonesian doctoral student, stuck in the United States, which quickly became the most dangerous place in the world. Much like during the global financial crisis in 2008, students in 2020 found themselves derailed by the pandemic. 

In 2019–2020, we learned that students everywhere had done everything that was expected of them as responsible members of society, but the members of society, whose decisions really mattered, seemed to have acted with gross irresponsibility. Students everywhere have been left to reimagine a future with yet another obstacle invented by older generations who prioritize quick-return solutions that generate long-term problems. International students work twice as hard to gain admission to U.S. universities. They even place other aspects of their lives on hold.

Muchransyah’s video essay is about thinking through the latest such obstacle when focusing on work seems impossible and the things that matter seem inaccessible. Google Earth becomes a way of feeling at home—and hours disappear, trying to locate oneself after remembering a Google Maps’ van pass one’s house back in Jakarta.

Azalia Muchransyah

An Indonesian filmmaker, writer, and scholar, Azalia Muchransyah is a Ph.D. Candidate in Media Study at University at Buffalo (SUNY) and a recipient of the 2017 DIKTI Fulbright Scholarship. Her research investigates how the remediation of People Living with HIV in media ecology contributes to the paradoxes of HIV advocacy in Indonesia. Her short films have been officially selected and screened in international festivals and academic conferences. Her ePortfolio is accessible at