VOD film review: 76 Days
Ivan Radford | On 22, Jan 2021
Directors: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen
Watch 76 Days online in the UK: Sky Documentaries / NOW TV / BFI Player / Curzon Home Cinema / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play / Sky Store
76 Days airs on Sky Documentaries at 9pm on Thursday 18th February 2021.
On 8th April 2020, the Chinese city of Wuhan opened up its doors and borders after 76 days of strict lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak that led to a devastating global pandemic. At the time of writing, the pandemic is still spreading across the globe and China has recorded around 100,000 coronavirus infections, with approximately 4,800 deaths linked to the virus. Life in Wuhan appears to have largely returned to normal. This documentary is not about the current state of affairs, but takes us back to January 2020, when the city went into what was then an unprecedented measure of quarantine.
A trio of directors – Hao Wu and Weixi Chen and an anonymous filmmaker – immerse us in the 76-day lockdown that kept 11 million people under tight restrictions in an attempt to get the virus under control. That’s the full extent of the film’s aims, and to that degree it succeeds. Harrowingly so.
From the opening scene, we’re confronted with the brutal consequences of the pandemic, as relatives of those dying from the virus are unable to say goodbye. Smartphones, necklaces and other personal items are removed from the deceased and put to one side to be disinfected before they can be returned to family members. Loved ones are notified with sensitive compassion of their loss – and then immediately quizzed about providing a copy of the deceased’s ID card, to help keep track of the sheer number of patients.
All of this bluntly necessary work is carried out by a team of dedicated healthcare workers, who simply don’t stop as they keep battling every new case of infection. The cameras have remarkable access to what feels like every part of their day, and the gruelling, relentless nature of their work is captured with horrible immediacy – there’s no doubting here the seriousness of the pandemic or the tragedy of the human toll.
At a year into the pandemic, however, that’s nothing new to learn for many, and it’s a shame that the movie doesn’t give us a sense of the bigger picture in China’s approach to combating the virus, from political leaders’ decisions to statistics and trends. But as a simple dispatch straight from the front line, this is a remarkable, raw documentary that puts on permanent record the reality on the ground for doctors, nurses and hospital staff members throughout this pandemic. What shines through is their unrelenting support for each other – one of the most moving moments sees them draw on each other’s PPE with markers, like kids saying goodbye at the end of a school year – and there’s undeniable power in being reminded of the resilience and dignity of healthcare workers around the world.
76 Days is available on Sky Documentaries. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW TV, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.