76 Days

76 Days (2020) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Directors: Weixi Chen, Hao Wu, Anonymous

I’m sure there are more “comfortable”, relaxing documentaries to watch while I am actually living a Covid infection myself, though one which is definitely lighter than what’s depicted here (By the way, for the record I’m doing all right and hopefully I’ll be clear soon).

“76 days” tells us about the time of first ever lockdown in Wuhan, the infamous city in China where the whole pandemic started.These are the early days of the pandemic when we knew very little about the virus, but some of the scenes of life in hospitals look unfortunately very familiar even when compared to what’s going on today (I’m writing this in December 2020). People struggling to breathe, people separated from their dear ones, people scared and the heroes, as always, are the fearless doctors running about trying to get on top of an impossible situation, but alyways showing their incredible heart (“we are your family now” one of them says at some point) and strength of spirit as well as their professionalism.

There’s a great sense of immediacy in what we are seeing: no talking heads, no captions, no time stamps (well, a couple right at the end), no interviews, but just snippets of real life inside and outside the hospitals. In the beginning it’s all rather disorientating and claustrophobic with faceless victims and faceless doctors, completely covered by their protective gears, coming in and out. They all seem interchangeable.

But slowly as the film progresses some real characters begin to take shape and as they start to come back we get more and more of a sense that these are actual human beings. The unflinching eye of the camera never shies away from the brutal reality, whether people “scared shitless” (that’s how they themselves define their fear), or mobile phones belonging to people who died ringing hopelessly from inside a box. At times we almost forget that there is a camera there as people act and react so naturally to any given situation.

It is incredible that such a product that feels so honest and real could have come out of China a country which is not always known for its freedom of speech (unsurprisingly one of the directors Is credited as “Anonymous”), all of which makes this film even more extraordinary.But beyond the tragedy, there’s also a lot of hope, especially towards the later part of the film. New lives being born and a general sense of optimism as the lockdown is lifted, though without ever forgetting the human cost.

Of course we all know today that what we were seeing was just the beginning of a long long nightmare, which affected the whole world, but this film will remain an important document for the future, when hopefully all this is over.

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