Here, MTV Documentary Films takes you for a personal look at that lockdown. It’s filmed in four hospitals but highlights Wuhan Red Cross Hospital, where everyone, including volunteers, hopes to contain and stop the virus’s spread before it becomes a pandemic.
A woman is thought crazy by her husband for volunteering to help. Still, she felt fortunate to be there, saying it was her once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be seen as a hero, something every staff member can be described as for the rest of their lives.
We witness firsthand what the beginning of the crisis does to them and how they handle people begging to be helped from a dire situation they are only learning about themselves. The caregivers feel terrible that they can’t allow people to see their family right before or even after they pass but do what they must. Also, the crew executes a remarkable job of keeping people calm, despite everything they’re going through; and by that, I mean their patients and fellow hospital staff. It’s frightening to consider what’s happening, but you see that the city of Wuhan, China, at 11 million people strong, took what was an outbreak at the time very seriously. The film begins on January 23, 2020, and goes through 4/8/2020, 76 days after it started, to when their lockdown lifts.
Over a PA system outside the hospital, people are told to cooperate with community leaders, follow the rules and regulations, and to stay home when possible. Cleaning companies make rounds and do what they can to help stop the spread by going into homes and spraying down specific items and even the people inside with disinfectant.
The movie grabs you right away with several scenes that show the cold, sick, and weakened citizens of Wuhan trying desperately to get help. It’s heartbreaking to see that the staff can only do so much, telling people to wait their turn. Highlighted early on, you see they’ve already gotten to where they can only let people in one at a time. There simply isn’t enough equipment and not enough beds to go around, to the degree that these essential workers have to be very strict with who gets what.
We see the toll Covid is taking on family members of the sick and dying. Everyone wants what does not exist… a miracle cure.
Against this background, ’76 Days’ focuses more on what caregivers are going through. They have a minimal amount of time to rest and to eat. Their family members are ill, too, so that’s on their minds. In fact, this is detailed by a nurse screaming to see her father’s body before it’s taken away. She’s prohibited to because she has a shift coming up and is desperately needed. The scene is heartbreaking to watch.
The film singles out a few patients and a few members of the hospital’s staff. One healthcare provider, named Tian, explains to a male patient that they are ‘one and the same’ when the patient asks him why he would risk his life to help him. The man calls him a ‘fearless soldier. You’ll see how tender Tian is in this scene and several others.
Another patient who’s focused on has been trying to find a way out, telling them that he feels like he is in prison. He threatens to call the police. This, too, is handled delicately. They explain the risk of leaving. To better understand who he is and why he’s behaving the way he is, it’s revealed that he’s from a rural area and is a ‘restless fisherman.’ They do their best to understand his dilemma.
During filming, we see that they have a patient who won’t eat. The situation is rectified when someone finally understands his strange dialect; he has been telling them he doesn’t have enough teeth. We also get a glimpse at a woman named Yang Li as she makes calls to family members of the dead to come and pick up the belongings their loved ones left behind, assuring them they have been thoroughly cleaned, of course.
’76 Days’ can be overwhelming at times. Not only for what you’ll see but for what didn’t happen in the editing room. Except for a few people, you’re not really introduced to anyone. When you are, or when you finally realize you’ve seen a person more than once, it’s easier to get and stay involved in what they’re going through. However, this is particularly difficult to achieve since everyone is wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). They are very guarded, even tape everything closed. Have you seen the movie ‘Outbreak?’ That’s what their gear looks like. When in battle, especially with such a vicious enemy, one doesn’t show up with a spoon in one’s hand. You prepare. And do they ever.
Outside of the frustration of not knowing who people were, I can’t imagine finding much fault in this film. It’s spectacularly presented, and you’ll walk away from this with a fierce knowledge of what it takes to stop the spread of this horrible thing. You also see a loving, nurturing people attending to others’ needs at a frantic time in their lives. They do this without question. Within this documentary, you get humanity at its finest. It’s critical you see this film right away. It’s an essential, noteworthy film, one that will document what we went through and what we did wrong.
* In Mandarin with English subtitles. MTV Documentary Films.
Director: NHao Wu, Weixi Chen and Anonymous
Writers: Hao Wu and shot by Anonymous and Weixi Chen
Running Time: 1h 33m