For a movie that just about didn’t get made, 76 Days has racked up a formidable variety of awards.
The documentary directed by Hao Wu, Weixi Chen and a Chinese filmmaker who stays nameless, and produced by Wu and Jean Tsien, earned a spot on the Oscar shortlist earlier this yr, claimed the Audience Award at AFI Fest, and in June received a prestigious Peabody Award. The Peabody committee praised the movie for its humanistic method, immersing viewers inside hospitals in Wuhan, China as that metropolis applied an emergency lockdown within the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“For a film that begins with a wailing nurse shouting out for her dying father,” the committee wrote, “and ends with the screeching of city air raid sirens to honor those who died in the coronavirus pandemic, 76 Days is yet a hopeful film that does more than just document the beginning of the global pandemic in the city in which virus cases were first reported. It is a film about resilience, compassion, empathy, improvisation, the power of human touch and caring hearts as much as it is about panic, suffering, and indiscriminate victims.”
“This Is A Government-Controlled Genocide”: ‘Welcome To Chechnya’ Director David France On Russian Republic’s Anti-LGBTQ Campaign
The newest honor for the documentary is an Emmy nomination for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, arguably essentially the most prestigious of the TV Academy’s nonfiction classes.
“I’ve been working in documentary for almost 40 years as an editor,” Tsien tells Deadline, “and I’ve edited several films that won the primetime Emmys, but I knew I could never touch that statue, so when I heard the news, as a first time producer, I was over the moon… I was really emotional.”
Wu, a New York-based filmmaker who was born in China, was visiting his household again in China, accompanied by his five-year-old children, when the Emmy nominations had been introduced. At the time, Wu and children had been within the midst of a compulsory 14-day quarantine.
“I was really stressed out, dealing with two kids in a single hotel room, without ever being able to step out of the hotel room,” Wu remembers. “So I completely forgot the day that the news was coming out. I remember I had just put my kids down. I was trying to get some work done, and then my phone started beeping. People started texting me from Jean, from MTV Documentary Films. It took me completely by surprise, precisely because I wasn’t really looking forward to it at all.”
Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking is the one juried documentary award on the Emmys. This yr, solely three movies had been nominated alongside 76 Days: Dick Johnson Is Dead, directed and produced by Kirsten Johnson and produced by Marilyn Ness and Katy Chevigny, and Welcome To Chechnya, directed and produced by David France and produced by Alice Henty, Joy Tomchin, Askold Kurov, and Igor Myakotin. Aspirants within the class should submit an essay explaining why their movie needs to be thought-about for Exceptional Merit.
“I explained, first of all, the origin story of the film,” Wu says of his essay. “How challenging it was to get the production going. What kind of precautions Jean and I both took in order to protect our identity and knowledge of this project from the very beginning, because we didn’t know how the Chinese government would react to a film like this.”
The origin story, in truth, is nearly as dramatic because the scenes captured within the documentary. Wu was visiting Shanghai when Wuhan went into lockdown in January 2020. Unable to enter town himself, he finally made contact with cinematographers inside Wuhan who may movie what was occurring.
“I picked them out after having talked to over a dozen filmmakers precisely because I saw in the footage their empathy and compassion for the subjects in front of the camera,” Wu notes. “The three of us, we collaborated over the internet because I was in New York, they were filming in Wuhan. Every day after their filming they uploaded their rushes onto the cloud.”
But the community that initially backed the venture all of the sudden determined to bail (MTV Documentary later got here on board, a choice validated in incomes its first Emmy nomination in nonfiction). And later Wu’s two administrators in China received chilly ft, after the Chinese authorities began to tightly management the narrative in regards to the coronavirus and its mysterious origins.
“They stopped collaborating with me because they just didn’t want to get into trouble,” Wu remembers. “At that time, I basically had no film. I didn’t know what to do.”
“We didn’t know [if] we can pull this off, but we knew the film needs to be made,” Tsien feedback. “We needed to keep a record of this year.”
Wu finally received his co-directors again within the fold. During his return journey to China in June, he received along with them face-to-face for the primary time.
“I traveled to Beijing to meet with my co-director, Weixi Chen, and later I traveled to Wuhan to meet my other co-director, ‘Anonymous,’” Wu says. “We saw each other, we hugged each other, and we were joking that it’s like a longtime internet dating. We finally got to meet in person.”
Wu continues, “My co-director, Anonymous, actually took me to visit all the sites where he filmed. It was quite emotional for me to be there… Standing in front of those sites, those hospitals, those streets. Life had come back to normal in Wuhan, and people were going about their business as normal.”
But earlier this month, the Chinese authorities once more locked down elements of Wuhan, in response to the menace from the Delta variant. In the United States and around the globe, heroic medical workers—the identical type seen in 76 Days battling the pandemic in its starting phases—are dealing with a surge of very unwell sufferers filling intensive care models.
“A year later, we are still in the Covid pandemic,” Tsien affirms. “I hope the film really just brings the message out—until the world, every country, every person in every country, is vaccinated—we are still at risk.”