January 23rd marks the one-year anniversary of the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China. 76 Days is a documentary directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and “Anonymous” taking us into the region and giving us a look at their struggle against the deadly pandemic. The film takes place through four Wuhan hospitals beginning a few days after lockdown.
The documentary opens with a gut punch as family is torn apart from each other. It delivers a visceral start of a raw and emotional journey the world has been experiencing for over a year. The film focuses on the struggles of the people of Wuhan in the earliest days of the outbreak. It’s the stories at the humans at the center of ground zero attempting to survive and do their best in impossible times.
Early on we’re takento a hospital as it needs to hold back the hoards of individuals attempting to seak treatment. The film feels like a zombie horror film as the hopsital staff are clad head to toe in protective gear and individuals bang on the door looking for treatment and refuge. It’s a surreal segment that doesn’t feel real taking us into the city’s lockdown and extreme measures from there. 11 million people on the frontline of the crisis.
The film might take place across the world but its struggles are universal. The pain clear. It’s hard to not tear up at as the phones of the deceased ring and messages are sent. To not cry as individuals recount the dead and family they’ve lost.
It also highlights the efforts of so many to fight the disease in its early days and the complete chaos of the situation. They were up against impossible odds constantly adapting and learning what they were up against. A year later, we’re in much of the same situation as the disease mutates and tests the world’s abilitiy to fight back once again.
The humanity on display is inpsiring. Doctors and nurses scrambling to fight for patients, some of who have little fight in them. Some cut off from their family, these medical soldiers adopt their patients becoming their surrogate families in these trying times.
But what’s amazing is, this is a city clearly at war with a force it can’t see. This feels like a battle for survival. It’s amazing to watch this and reflect on the laxidazical response by so many in so many other regions.
But the film goes beyond that showing the impact on others. A woman faces a C-section alone as her husband isn’t allowed to attend the birth due to the risk of disease. Beyond that we see the struggle of the same family to bring their child home during a pandemic. We see the lines of food being handed out to keep individuals at home. There’s the amazing level of work put in to disinfect so much regularly. Often reminding workers of those lost to the disease and how it doesn’t care about age or class.
But, the film constantly comes back to the struggle within the hospital. The hurdles are far more than I ever realized beyond the disease itself. Patients with different needs. Patients with different dialects. Some take to the internet filling them with misinformation. Some suffering from other diseases like dementia. It all comes together to make the battle that much more difficult.
This is a war film. There are losses and death. There is trauma that will live with individuals for years. For 76 days the city and its people struggled. It’s a struggle the world continues to experience with no end in sight.