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From 76 Days (2020), dir. Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, and Anonymous (image courtesy MTV Documentary Films)

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The title of 76 Days refers to the length of time that Wuhan, China was under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from late January to early April 2020. With a population of 11 million, the city’s shutdown marked the largest documented quarantine in history. In this documentary, People’s Republic of Desire director Hao Wu, Chinese journalist Weixi Chen, and a third anonymous co-director capture the efforts of ordinary hospital workers in Wuhan during this time.

Though it lacks the instant name recognition of Ai Weiwei’s similar film CoroNation, which was surprise-released earlier this year, 76 Days is the superior effort. Where Ai’s film is sprawling, this one is focused, finding many more intensely humane moments amongst the doctors and their patients. One subplot follows a woman with COVID who gives birth, and how both she and her baby are closely monitored afterward. A tender recurring motif sees the health workers write encouraging messages on their and others’ PPE suits with markers. From numerous small moments, it draws together an inspiring picture of collective effort to fight a disaster.

76 Days opens in virtual cinemas December 4.

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Dan Schindel

Dan Schindel is Associate Editor for Documentary at Hyperallergic. He is studying in the masters program at Merz Akademie in Stuttgart, Germany. You can find his all his links and public profiles here.