Where were you one year ago? As I’ve been reminded by Facebook all throughout this week, a year ago I was on a family vacation to Disneyland. It was a chance to celebrate a late Christmas, see my wife’s family and all our nieces and nephews and to explore Galaxy’s Edge for the first time. It was a dream vacation, as my wife and I spent six nights at the Disneyland Hotel and six days in the parks.
I also remember that a few days after we got home, I got sick. It came on suddenly. I had a mild soar throat by morning and could barely swallow by the time I got home from work. Then came the fever and the lethargy. I thought it was a terrible case of the flu. About a month later, California was on lock down, Disneyland closed its doors and I started to wonder if my case of the flu had really been something else.
A year ago, while I was riding Rise of the Resistance and enjoying some Mickey shaped waffles, Wuhan Province in China was enduring a crisis. The new documentary 76 Days captures the work of medical personnel and the experiences of residents during a lockdown that began on January 23, 2020. In honor of the anniversary, the film was offered free to stream to American audiences for the day, and I signed up to check it out.
The crisis would soon sweep the world, and lock downs would become common place, at least to some degree, in most places around the world. But Wuhan was first, locking down on January 23, 2020 and not emerging until 76 days later. This documentary, from co-directors Hao Wu and Weixi Chen, focuses on the hospital which is overrun by patients and the staff that become primary caregivers, render medical aid, and become the biggest cheerleaders of those that come through their doors. It’s an up close and intimate look at the pandemic in the heart of where it began, featuring some unfettered access that helps you get to know the patients and the experiences that dominated the 76-day lockdown.
There were several stories in this documentary that really struck me. I was particularly moved by the story of a couple who got COVID and had to give birth during the lock down. The child was delivered safely and, after briefly being held by the father, was whisked to a children’s hospital. While mother recovered, she and father were put in COVID lockdown, while their child remained in the hospital. It was weeks before they were reunited and seeing the raw emotion of a mother, finally, holding her child for the first time helps illustrate that the cost of this pandemic can be weighed in many ways.
Other stories included an older man, suffering dementia, who was left in the hospital throughout nearly the entire lockdown, recovering from COVID and trying to gain the strength to return to family. Or the hospital employee charged with sanitizing the belongings of those who passed and returning them to grieving family members who gathered at the barricade outside the hospital.
Sadly, 76 Days is becoming a bit of a common example of life throughout the globe in 2020 and early 2021. Yet it’s a powerful story powerfully told, and a good reminder of all we’ve suffered and all we’ve come through.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a proud member of the Drive-In Podcast Network.