The film “76 Days” has been listed as a serious contender for Best Documentary in the 93rd Academy Awards according to Variety magazine. Variety’s vote of approval for the factual feature has lead 50 million social media users in China to post comments on Weibo below the popular hashtag #76 Days.
The heart wrenching account of the daily lives of patients and medical staff in Wuhan last February was filmed at close quarters and directed by Chinese American director Wu Hao, although it was produced in the U.S. It is expected to be formally nominated for an Oscar later this year.
What’s the story?
The documentary was released online in the U.S. in December 2020 and is set to enter cinemas in Singapore on 23 Jan this year, the anniversary of the start of Wuhan’s lockdown which was imposed just two days before the Lunar New Year to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The documentary made its world debut at last October’s Toronto International Film Festival, and more festivals have embraced its depiction of the monumental period at the start of what was to become the global Covid-19 pandemic. “Obviously right now most Chinese feel proud the country has been able to control it. But it is a trauma,” said director Wu Hao, who used footage from inside hospitals in Wuhan to tell the story of the first Covid-19 lockdown.
Meanwhile, “Days and Nights in Wuhan”, which is set for release in Chinese mainland cinemas on 22 Jan., will be shown for free in cities across China over the Lunar New Year holiday. As with 76 Days, the movie focuses on touching human interest stories of life and death during the Wuhan lockdown, and according to the Zhejiang Daily, avoids narration so that viewers can relive the lockdown without intermediaries.
Director Xu Zheng hopes for a U.S. general release for his movie. “They [viewers in the U.S.] can see how strong-willed Chinese people are and how they respect life,” he said in a video uploaded on Weibo.
What are people saying online?
The most popular comment about “76 Days” on Weibo was a plea to wait for a general release date, and not watch copies in the meantime. “They risked their lives to produce this documentary, which was not easy.”
Those who had seen the trailer have said how moved they were by the stories featured in it. “There is no need for awards,” said one, “as this has to be the best movie in the hearts of every Chinese person.”
Many were struck by the documentary having been produced overseas. “How can it satisfy the West if it isn’t entirely critical?” wrote one viewer. “After watching a Chinese movie with English subtitles in Wuhan dialect, I can only say, “It’s pretty tough.”
The movie piqued people’s patriotism, with one popular comment reading, “As a Chinese person, I hope we can win an award, but on technique not just subject matter.”
Indeed, the subject matter remains extremely raw. In comments under the hashtag #Wuhan Days and Nights Made Me Cry#, one moviegoer said, “The trailer hadn’t even begun to roll and I was already in tears.”