76 Days: Directed by Hao Wu (Docu, COVID 19)

Hao Wu (’76 Days’)

Hao Wu
Courtesy of Sthanlee B. Mirador/Courtesy of MTV Documentary Films
Hao Wu

For his fourth feature documentary, 76 Days, the director collaborated remotely with his two co-helmers in Wuhan, China: first-timer Weixi Chen and an anonymous journalist-filmmaker.

Shot in four hospitals, the film kinetically captures the chaos and panic of the novel coronavirus pandemic’s first weeks.

The U.S.-based director, 49, edited 76 Days without news clips or score and stripped away all commentary. “We wanted to keep it a very raw historic document for future generations,” he explains. The team followed a revolving cast of medical workers and patients, shooting as much footage as possible.

“I wanted viewers to focus on the emotional journey during this lockdown,” he says of the film’s visceral impact. Wu’s background as a molecular biologist and Silicon Valley executive working in China and the U.S. allowed him to bridge the cultural divide.

Wu’s previous documentaries were character-driven stories that shied away from covered news events (His People’s Republic of Desire, about Chinese internet stars, was the 2018 SXSW Documentary Grand Jury Award winner).

Although 76 Days is more topical, his keen storytelling instincts show through despite the limitations of filming on the front line of the pandemic, 7,500 miles from the editing suite.

“My intention,” he says, “was to highlight what was universal among all our experience dealing with COVID.”

Critical Status:

It was shortlisted by the Film Academy; Rotten Tomatoes’ top-ranked doc of 2020; two Gotham Award noms; 2020 AFI Fest Audience Award

He was inspired by Ang Lee, Christ Nolan, and Frederick Wiseman.