Covid-19 started in the Wuhan province of China, with a population of 11 million, late in 2019. The film 76 Days documents how the hospitals there dealt with the pandemic in early 2020.
Initially, it was a rather brutalizing situation, with hospital staff dealing with a surge of patients literally trying to force their way in. The doctors and nurses covered with protective equipment from head to toe, the filmmakers kindly inserting names via subtitles.
Just as we saw in the American news coverage, these hospital workers were engaged in important, and exhausting, work. It was often raw and somewhat chaotic. Some got discharged, some didn’t make it.
Over time, fortunately, the viewer sees a sense of hope, and even humor, emerge. There was no narrative thrust to the film per se, particularly early on. Eventually, there were certain characters you start to identify.
The fisherman wants to go home before it’s safe for him and especially his family. The married couple is isolated in separate male and female wings. The new parents are waiting for their baby to finally come home.
The viewer also sees brief scenes outside of the hospital of people in lockdown, adjusting to the new situation. And finally, on April 4, 2020, horns blaring to mourn the dead.
The documentary received 100% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. It was made by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and Anonymous. To read how the film was made and why one creator is not identified, read this interesting article in Variety.
76 Days is a remarkable, and fortuitous, documenting of a historic, albeit awful, event. It’s less terrible when we see the bravery and compassion of the staff. And the final scene, in many ways, is the most touching.
This film is available on Paramount +, free with the subscription, or on Amazon Prime, for an additional fee.