76 Days starts like an apocalyptic thriller where hospital workers covered in protective gear get ready to fight off a horde of zombies. But 76 Days isn’t fiction, it’s the reality of 2020. These doctors, nurses and cleaners are facing a pandemic of unknown proportions, and directors Hao Wu and Weixi Chen are here to document the connections that are being made, at the epicenter of this global crisis: Wuhan, China.

A desperate crowd is pushing and crying for help outside the closed doors of a COVID-19 hospital floor, locked off from any outside visitors for an unknown period of time. Life stands still here. People come in with a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to extremely severe. Some patients will never go back home. Knowing the risks that come with contracting this deadly virus, should make for an emotionally charged documentary. Unfortunately, the film makes it very hard to connect with the faceless hospital workers, and it’s almost impossible to sympathize with the people suffering through this unknown period of social confinement.

Reason for that is the cold interactions between hospital staff and patients, that failed to resonate with me. After months of global lockdown periods and quarantine regulations, several reports on hospitals dealing with COVID-19 have aired on numerous channels and each one of them had something more memorable to say than 76 Days. Building a documentary around a hospital, solely documenting the questions public and professional health care workers have about COVID-19 while focusing on people disconnecting from family and friends, just doesn’t push any boundaries. Perhaps I expected something more informative, but I can’t help but feel left in the cold with such a unique setting and timing.

The camera work is rather simple and powerless. The only two scenes that really worked for me were the chaotic opening sequence in which the hospital workers were mentally preparing for a panicking crowd of sick people at the start of Wuhan’s lockdown, and the ending in which the Chinese city remembers the countless deaths by sounding a loud siren at the end of the 76 days of lockdown. Everything in between could’ve taken place in any other majorly affected city around the world, and would’ve had a similar numbing effect.

76 Days limits itself with an overly disinfected report from the epicenter of the global pandemic. Probably meant as a tribute to hospital workers, allowed to flourish between a constant sense of fear and death, this generic documentary lacks real emotional connections, inevitably paralyzing you after its promising intense opening sequence.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

76 Days is screening at TIFF20:
Monday, September 14 at 5pm and 5:15pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tuesday, September 15 at 6pm (online)
Thursday, September 17 at 4:30pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tickets are available HERE

TIFF20 Review – ’76 Days’

Reviewed online (as part of Toronto International Film Festival), September 14, 2020. Rating: TBC. Running time: 93 min.

PRODUCTION: A 76 Days LLC production. Producers: Hao Wu, Jean Tsien. Executive producers: Bryn Mooser, Roberto Grande, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Naja Pham Lockwood.

CREW: Director: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous. Editor: Hao Wu. Cinematography: Anonymous, Weixi Chen.

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