Raw and intimate, this documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.
Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous
The opening sequences feel like a genre movie — science-fiction, zombie horror, apocalyptic thriller. We watch hospital workers, encased in PPE so that we only see their eyes behind foggy goggles, as they race from one patient to another. At the hospital doors, a desperate crowd is clamouring for entry. The overwhelmed workers can only admit a few people at a time.
For all the fantastical elements, this is the reality of 2020. The filmmakers of 76 Days capture an invaluable record of life inside Wuhan, China, ground zero for the outbreak of COVID-19. On January 23, the city of 11 million people went into a lockdown that lasted 76 days. This film concentrates mainly on medical workers and patients to give a pulse-racing account of what it was like to survive.
76 Days excels beyond mere reportage. The camera work is so strong that you could frame still images. In the face of fear and uncertainty, we also witness perseverance and humour, as medical workers use magic markers to decorate their plastic outfits. One memorable figure is a head nurse who never fails to make a human connection with patients, even under the most dire circumstances.
Director Hao Wu has a strong track record making Chinese documentaries that resonate with international audiences. Here he teams with Wuhan collaborators Weixi Chen and others, along with US producer Jean Tsien (Asian Americans).
76 Days will be a lasting work of art for future generations trying to understand this pandemic.
Content advisories: illness, dead bodies