After a year and a half, one might be entering COVID-19 fatigue and one might be looking for an escape rather than an immersion into another locale’s pandemic problems. Yet “Wuhan Wuhan” offers personal stories of people in Wuhan, people who are just trying to survive during tragic times and will eventually help provide a well-rounded account along with Hao Wu and Weixi Chen’s “76 Days” and Nanfu Wang’s “In the Same Breath.”-
There was a time when few people outside of China knew the name, Wuhan. Now the city is linked with the worldwide tragedy. While “76 Days” looked at the beginnings of the pandemic and “In the Same Breath” observed the communist state’s crackdown on information, with “Wuhan Wuhan,” director Yung Chang (“Up the Yangze”) brings an intimate portrait of a chosen few.
Wuhan takes its name from the city’s historic origin as the joining of the three towns (武汉三镇) of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. It is the most populous city in Central China and the ninth most populous city in mainland China. In December 2019, the epidemic emerged, but it wasn’t until 23 January 2020 that a lockdown was imposed in an effort to control the outbreak of COVID-19. The lockdown officially ended on 13 March 2020.
There’s the husband Yin and his Xu. Yin is unable to work at his factory job and now drives people around. His wife is 37 weeks pregnant. A mother, Mama Liu and her child Laila hospitalized. Nurse Susu is separated from her family (daughter and son) during the lockdown. The ER chief, Zheng must also remain away. Not everyone is from the area. A psychologist, Zhang, comes from her home province to volunteer in Wuhan.
According to the film, 16,638 babies were born in Wuhan, Hubei province during the lockdown. Yin and Xu’s daughter, Chuning, which means, “Peaceful Hubei” was one of those babies. The film further informs us that:
On April 3, 2020, Wuhan lifted the lockdown. The official report stated 50,008 confirmed cases and 2,574 deaths.
By June 1, 2020 Wuhan collected tests from 11 million residents reporting 300 asymptomatic cases. Since then, Wuhan has not had any major outbreaks.
“Wuhan Wuhan” is a documentary of an important period of time in a world history and will certainly add to our knowledge of what was happening, and helps humanize the citizens of Wuhan with these personal and intimate stories. Yet as we continue to endure the restrictions of the pandemic, it is hard to watch without wondering when the restrictions will come to an end. Watching this might not be good for your mental health so be sure to follow it up with some escapist fare.
“Wuhan Wuhan” won Best Documentary at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. The film made its world premiere at the Hot Docts International Documentary Film Festival in April and is part of AAIFF 2021.