Toronto 2020: 76 Days

76 Days. Courtesy of TIFF.

While 76 Days certainly takes a look at Wuhan during the 76-day lockdown, it isn’t really explosive in terms of what we see on camera.

As most of the film industry spent the last weekend of January attending the Sundance Film Festival and kicking off a new year for film, something else was happening in China.  On January 23, 2020, China made the decision to lock down Wuhan.  This city has some 11 million residents.  Think of it as locking down all of New York City and then some.

This film doesn’t take an exhaustive approach in terms of how this could happen.  Far from it.  Instead, the filmmakers focus on some of the smaller stories that took place.  Whether its’s an upset woman who isn’t allowed to say goodbye to her father or a couple ready to meet their newborn child, the filmmakers try and look for some of the stories in this unfortunate reality.  You have good people like a nurse that hopes to return items to families after their loved ones have died.  But on the other hand, if you’re a medical professional, do you even try to develop an attachment to your patients?

My heart aches for the woman that couldn’t say goodbye to her father.  I also know that she isn’t alone.  There are many more people out there that couldn’t say goodbye.  We saw this in the US and elsewhere in the early months and we’re still seeing it today.

Press have been instructed not to reveal too much about this film.  This is not because of what we see on camera but rather out of fear for retaliation against the filmmakers.  To no surprise, one of the filmmakers has chosen to remain anonymous.  The fact that they got any of this footage is, well, a challenge in its own right.  There’s going to be a few pandemic documentaries through the lens of American filmmakers with differing perspectives. But back to this one, this is the type of documentary where the filmmakers are treading a fine line.  Do they go for stories that give hope or would they rather focus on the hard-hitting pieces that make us second-guess what’s true in the news and what isn’t?  The latter is impossible with the country controlling the narrative.

If you’re expecting some sort of documentary with talking heads, you won’t find it in 76 Days but you’ll find the smaller stories.

DIRECTORS:  Hao Wu, Weixi Chen, Anonymous

76 Days holds its world premiere during the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival in the TIFF Docs program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.