“Papa!” screams a hospital worker, covered from head to toe in a Hazmat suit and PPE, in the opening moments of the documentary “76 Days.”
This is in the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan, back in January and February when the city of 11 million went into a 2 1/2-month lockdown and hospitals were overrun. The health worker’s father has just died, and her agony at not being able to sit by his side is overwhelming. Her colleagues restrain her as she sobs, moaning, “Papa, you’ll stay forever in my heart.”
“76 Days,” shot in four Wuhan hospitals, captures a local horror before it became a global nightmare. Given the constraints at the time on footage and information from Wuhan, it’s a rare window into the infancy of the pandemic. The film is directed by the New York-based filmmaker Hao Wu, who worked with two Chinese journalists — one named Wiexi Chen, the other is remaining anonymous — to create of a portrait of the virus epicenter.