Should be required viewing for people who still think the Covid-19 virus is either a hoax and some minor illness
Director: Weixi Chen
Writers: Hao Wu and Anonymous
Esquire China/Ford Foundation
No Rating: be aware of graphic hospital scenes
Running Length: 93 Minutes
“76 Days” should be required viewing for people who still think the Covid-19 virus is either a hoax and some minor illness it takes a few days to shake off. The production group for this film have harrowing and frightful footage of what happens in four hospitals, Wuhan, China, during the 76-day lock down, from February-April 2020. Medical personnel are worked to the brink of exhaustion. Shot in color with handheld camera, the crew follows doctors, nurses and patients as they cope with loneliness, fear, the loss of loved ones they could not say good-bye to, and having their own lives in danger---and danger that attacks in a hurry. Death becomes so common, a day in the life of a medical professional, gets to be routine in dealing with a person who they didn’t have time to know. Ambulances drop patients off at the hospital door, but where to put the patient.
There are four stories that come up in “76 Days.” One follows an aged grandfather, who is tough, resilient and a problem to hospital workers as he thinks he can roam the halls at will. They deal with him kindly and with patience. Another is the death of a grandmother, no one could say good-bye to, and what to do with personal effects and how to get a bracelet off her swollen arm. A third, is a woman who has been on a ventilator so long she has scarring on her face, and the fourth is touching. A young married couple with their first child and the mother has to give birth, go into quarantine with husband, and leave the baby girl in the hospital for two months for her own protection. The child is beautiful and the nurses take to her and gently called her “little penguin” for her appetite. Then the camera goes from inside the hospital into what is happening outside and it is desolate, gray and looks like the end of the world.
Ambulances drop patients off at the hospital door, but where to put the patient. A baby is born and one of the immediate procedures is to slap the bottom of the baby’s feet to get a nerve response. It comes with a hearty yell. An old man has no teeth and cannot eat until a nurse soaks bread in a hot beverage and he is able to get nourishment. The camera goes back and forth from watching “little penguin” grow in the hospital, to her parent’s apartment and they getting it ready for her to eventually come home. The aged grandfather pops up everywhere as he wanders through the hospital. The personnel are gentle with him and then find no one in the old man’s family wants to care for him. Eventually, someone comes forth and takes him, but not until they are sure he is COVID-19-free. One person wakes up in the hospital and asks where their family is, to which a nurse says, “They are not here, we are your family now.”
You may wonder if there is some happiness in Wuhan hospitals at this time. Personnel at one hospital, paint flowers and smiling faces on the backs of their uniforms. This is easy identification, too, as all wear masks. At another hospital, is a patient who is a Christian and offers to pray for everyone and this is encouraged by a nurse. Then, it is back to sanitizing personnel effects of deceased patients before giving the items to family. There are credit cards, driver’s licenses, jewelry, and cell phones with numerous messages on each from family trying to reach their loved one, but they have already died.
“76” is a strong film about fighting a war against an unseen enemy. Everything around you from material things to the air you breath, can bring death if touched. This war is fought with hospital personnel and ventilators not guns or bombs. Now, this war is being waged around the world and every country can have a scenario as depicted in “76.” A mask is now essential wear, and is part of what a doctor tells a patient who has recovered from Covid-19. “Be Vigilant…No Crowds…Wear Mask.”
Copyright 2020 Marie Asner