76 Days Documentary

On the Front Lines of a Pandemic: A TIFF Review of ’76 Days’

September 14, 2020Ben MK

Unlike most documentaries, 76 Days has no need for a narrator, nor are there any interviews anywhere to be found. Instead, this fly-on-the-wall look at the experiences of hospital staff battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan relies solely on firsthand footage, creating a unique account of what it's like to be on the front lines of an emerging world health crisis.

Chronicling the time period from January 23rd to April 8th, 2020, directors Hao Wu and Weixi Chen's cameras are always on the move, following a small group of nurses, doctors and patients at Wuhan's Red Cross Hospital as the city of 11 million people is put into lockdown and the government struggles to contain the spread of the disease. From the ICU to Obstetrics, we watch as exhausted men and women clad from head to toe in goggles, masks and white protective suits go from room to room, offering not just their medical expertise but also their emotional support. And as we witness an elderly patient finally headed home for a long-overdue reunion with his family, we share the same sense of relief as the staff who have spent weeks caring for him.

Of course, not every story featured here receives the same happy ending. And it's in those moments that 76 Days truly hits the hardest. Suffice to say, this film won't provide any insight into how the virus originated or how it can be defeated; but from purely a human drama perspective it proves quite enlightening indeed.

76 Days screens under the TIFF Docs programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 33 min.

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