Hao Wu’s documentary is a glimpse into our planet as it changed, filmed in secrecy during the 76-day lockdown in Wuhan, China during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.
76 Days focuses on the frontline medical workers during the lockdown and their frantic struggle to keep up with a new virus. The film grips you immediately with its opening, as a frontline professional begs to say goodbye to her deceased father whilst other workers hold her back, needing her to remain composed so she can continue to work with them.
The first half, in particular, is filled with scenes that stay with you long after the documentary has finished. Boxes filled with the cell phones of the deceased; crowds outside the hospital clamouring to get inside for treatment; certain people inside wondering why they have to be quarantined and considering the lockdown unnecessary (yeah, look how things turned out).
It’s a shame the momentum of the documentary slows down in the second half. The entire documentary is set inside the hospitals dealing with sick patients; it would have been interesting to document a more complete picture of what Wuhan thought about the virus at the time of filming and how public opinion towards it shifted. Instead, it all starts to feel a little bit like your average hospital documentary, featuring various patients with different symptoms.
There’s also a lack of context within the documentary – considering it is called 76 Days, you’re given no timestamps which track what stage of the lockdown you are witnessing, leaving everything to feel a little timeless, which is a shame.
We may eventually get a more cohesive, fully fleshed out documentary on COVID-19 that offers various perspectives. But even with a weaker back section, 76 Days is still an iconic piece of history caught on camera, and a fascinating watch.