Sunday, May 2, 2021

Wuhan Wuhan - Documentary Review

The Documentary: Wuhan Wuhan

The Director: Yung Chang

The Story: In a time when the world needs greater cross-cultural understanding, Wuhan Wuhan is an invaluable depiction of a metropolis joining together to overcome a crisis.

The Review:
This might just be one of the most important movies you could watch right now. The last year has given us a pandemic and a political perspective that China, and specifically the city of Wuhan, as the culprit and the villain creating a wave of dehumanization and hate that was completely unnecessary and unacceptable. Yes, the pandemic essentially began in Wuhan, and eventually spread around the world, that much we have been made explicitly aware of. What we haven't seen before is the city itself, the people, the bravery, and the reality of how it all began.

Enter Yung Chang's documentary which follows six different stories featuring eight different people who are all impacted in different ways as the virus sweeps through a vibrant and thriving city that is commonly known within China for its art and culture. Chang does a great job of showing how beautiful the city itself is with overhead flyovers and establishing shots, all of which actually made me think about visiting the city some day if I ever get the chance. I think that's really what's been missing about the narrative over the last year, that Wuhan is a city comparable to Los Angeles or Chicago and is filled with a diverse mix of people, of human beings, just like any other city in the world.

Speaking of the people, each of the different stories that Chang weaves together is an emotional, stressful, and heroic journey literally through life and death scenarios. A young couple who are about to give birth to their first child in the middle of the biggest health crisis of our time, a nurse who must make life or death decisions while also doing everything she can to protect herself from a virus that, at the time, seemed unstoppable, and a covid positive mother trapped by circumstances and a health system that is near collapse while also making sure her son, who also contracted the virus, is safe and receiving proper care.

All of these storylines come packed with emotion because they are real stories of  real people just like you and me. The timeline is a few weeks after the initial breakout so we see the hospitals and medical staff at the tail end of the first wave and starting to get a handle on what they need to do and how to do it without  everything completely falling apart. The staff is exhausted in every way a person can be and yet they show up every day to save as many people as they possibly can. Chang shows us a psychologist who is brought in from from Xinjiang province as a volunteer even as she herself needs to cope with her family's emerging health issues.

Another thing I liked about this documentary is that there is a minimal amount of talking heads. The filmmaking team follows the subjects and lets their stories play out naturally which adds to the authenticity of the emotions and drama. I hope that people are able to understand that we are all just people and the virus did not and does not care one bit what a person's ethnic background is, what their political affiliation is, or what part of the planet they happen to be on. These really are the stories we need right now. Stories that bring us closer and create a sense of community through empathy and understanding.

The Verdict:
Wuhan Wuhan is the type of documentary we need right now for so many different reasons. Director Yung Chang pieces together a compelling and inspiring story out of footage compiled at the onset of one of the worst natural disasters we have ever seen.

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