The “76 Days” film named for the duration of the central Chinese city’s draconian lockdown is the first major documentary film from the COVID-19 original epicenter (Wuhan) to hit theaters, the film was captured during harrowing footage of terrified citizens hammering on hospital doors in the city. According to AFP, “back in February, when few Americans were aware of a distant and oddly named phenomenon called coronavirus, two Chinese filmmakers strapped on hazmat suits and embedded themselves in Wuhan’s overrun hospitals.
“There, they captured harrowing footage of terrified citizens hammering on hospital doors, medics collapsing from exhaustion, and relatives begging in vain to say goodbye to infected loved ones, as those images have been edited together by New York-based director Hao Wu (“People’s Republic of Desire”). Premiering at the Toronto film festival on Monday, it was shot in a claustrophobic, cinema verite style without voice-over or direct-to-camera interviews, it relied on the intimacy of the footage of doctors and patients grappling with a terrifying new reality.
The film eschewed politics and blamed to focus on personal stories of tragedy and bravery, hope and despair, which repeated around the world after COVID-19 emerging in China. Medics tenderly hold the hands of patients locked away from their families, and are distinguishable to viewers only by the colorful doodles they scrawl upon each other’s head-to-toe hazmat suits. It remains unclear whether the movie will ever be seen in China, where news about the pandemic has been tightly controlled since day one, leading to many in the West, including US President Donald Trump, accusing Beijing of a vast cover-up.
The Director, Wu had a personal motivation for pursuing the project, as his grandfather died from cancer soon after the outbreak, unable to find a hospital bed as resources strained under the weight of Covid-19. “In the beginning I was angry with the Chinese government — I really wanted to find out who’s at fault, what caused this. “But once the pandemic spread with exponentially greater tragedy to other countries like the US, the desire to place blame was replaced by a desire to document how “as human beings live through this, how we can share this experience.” “I would love to show it in China, because I feel that for the entire country with Covid, it has been such a scar on the nation’s psyche,” said Wu, who hopes it could help his ancestral home to mourn its losses.