While Hao Wu is one of the directors of the documentary “76 Days,” he was never actually in China during the entire production process. “I reached out to filmmakers who had started filming in Wuhan in early February. That’s how I found my two co-directors. Both of my co-directors are reporters,” Wu tells Gold Derby at our Meet the Experts: Documentary panel (watch above). Reporters were one of the only groups of people along with medical workers and patients who were allowed into Wuhan hospitals at the start of the outbreak. One of his co-directors, Weixi Chen, is a video reporter for Esquire China and the other, Anonymous, is a photojournalist for a local paper. The presence of the reporters was a welcome one due to overwhelmed hospitals with shortages of PPE. “Some hospitals welcomed reporters to come in and do reporting so people outside of Wuhan could know what was truly happening.”
“76 Days” examines the early days of the coronavirus breakout in Wuhan, China through the perspectives of the staff of four separate hospitals in the province. It’s named for the period of time that the first lockdown spanned in the province. We get to see how the hospitals are quickly overwhelmed by the number of patients that are coming in as well as how the doctors and nurses are pushed to the brink in having to care for so many people including both the sick and their families.
Wu also explains that the third co-director wished to remain anonymous despite the fact that the film does not have a political edge to its message. “Since Anonymous had only worked for state-owned media companies before, he was still very wary of displeasing the government in any way because the government might have problems with how he depicts the early chaos or the immense tragedies occurring during the lockdown.” Anonymous was also very wary of the presence of nationalistic trolls on Chinese social media. “They view anybody who’s not working directly with the government or portrays China in any negative light, they would start these online personal attacks. He didn’t want to lose his job because it’s the only job he’s ever had.”
One of the interesting aspects of the film is that we don’t really see the faces of any of the people who actually work at the hospital as they’re always being covered by masks and other forms of personal protective equipment. This was not a conscious choice on the part of Wu. “I think it’s more because, obviously we have captured them outside of the contamination zones without their masks on but then those scenes were not as interesting or as emotionally dramatic.” He elaborates that “we just want to make sure every image on the screen can convey some kind of emotional response in the viewer.”
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