Mere months after filmmaker Hao Wu, alongside a pair of China-based journalists-turned-filmmakers (Weixi Chen and another, still anonymous creator), started filming the remarkable pandemic documentary “76 Days,” the film was already headed out on the festival circuit. It was only fitting for such an immediate story, which unfolded during the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, chronicling a heartbreaking horror that would soon engulf the entire world.
Per the film’s official synopsis: “On January 23rd, 2020, China locked down Wuhan, a city of 11 million, to combat the emerging COVID-19 outbreak. Set deep inside the frontlines of the crisis, ’76 Days’ tells indelible human stories at the center of this pandemic—from a woman begging in vain to bid a final farewell to her father, a grandfather with dementia searching for his way home, a couple anxious to meet their newborn, to a nurse determined to return personal items to families of the deceased. These intimate stories bear witness to the death and rebirth of a city under a 76-day lockdown, and to the compassion and human resilience that persists in times of profound tragedy.”
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (where it topped IndieWire’s Critics Poll as Best Documentary of the festival), and then went on to play at Camden, Heartland, Double Exposure, AFI FEST, and DOC NYC. Now, it’s up for Best Documentary at this year’s Gotham Awards, hinting at more acclaim to come.
Upon its TIFF debut, IndieWire’s own David Ehrlich wrote that the documentary “offers a bracingly immediate view from the frontlines of history — at the trauma and disequilibrium of being ambushed by a crisis dire enough to define its century. Discretely shot across four Wuhan hospitals without government approval, and premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival just a few months later, this fly-in-the-trenches look inside the outbreak is scattered and structureless in a way that makes it seem as if it’s simply taking notes for the history books of the future.”
MTV Documentary Films will launch the film in virtual cinemas nationwide starting on Friday, December 4. Check out the first trailer for “76 Days,” available exclusively on IndieWire, below.