Film turns lens on post-COVID Wuhan

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By AY­BEK ASKHAR and LIU KUN Long Time No

A doc­u­men­tary,

See, Wuhan, telling the sto­ries of 10 fam­i­lies in the Chi­nese city hit hard­est by the COVID-19 pan­demic, was viewed more than 25 mil­lion times dur­ing its first 24 hours on­line in late June.

The film was di­rected by Takeuchi Ryo, a Ja­panese who has lived in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince, for seven years.

From a front-line nurse who tried to en­cour­age pa­tients by danc­ing and sing­ing with them, to a res­tau­rant owner striv­ing to keep his es­tab­lish­ment open, the peo­ple in the doc­u­men­tary have all suf­fered in their own way. Yet, as the film pro­gresses, the au­di­ence finds that a ba­sic thread of re­silience binds them to­gether.

One crew mem­ber said she was im­pressed by peo­ple’s op­ti­mism in the city. After watch­ing an older man swim­ming across the Yangtze River, she said she is de­ter­mined to show more peo­ple all the good things hap­pen­ing in the city and rec­om­mend a visit to Wuhan to her friends.

In one scene, Takeuchi is as­ton­ished by the man­power brought to bear to build Leishen­shan hospi­tal — more than 7,000 work­ers. Push­ing the lim­its of hu­man en­durance and en­gi­neer­ing skill, they threw up a tem­po­rary med­i­cal fa­cil­ity for coro­n­avirus pa­tients in only 10 days.

Li Jie, one of the in­ter­vie­wees, had been one of the con­struc­tion work­ers. He said he ap­pre­ci­ated the ex­tra money he earned, but it was his pas­sion to be part of the re­mark­able project that kept him go­ing.

“Dur­ing the busiest time, I stayed up three nights and four days,” said Li, who had ini­tially thought it was an im­pos­si­ble mis­sion. He had not counted on the spirit, cre­ativ­ity, en­ergy and unity that would bring it to pass.

“After the pan­demic, many of us had a dif­fer­ent mind­set,” he said. “I re­al­ized that earn­ing a lot of money means noth­ing. Be­ing alive is the most im­por­tant thing.”

One com­ment on the doc­u­men­tary salutes the peo­ple of Wuhan: “Liv­ing like the peo­ple of Wuhan is the most hon­or­able way to say good­bye to our dead.”

“I thought peo­ple would be im­pa­tient watch­ing an hour­long doc­u­men­tary; how­ever, after I up­loaded it to ma­jor on­line video plat­forms in China, there were too many com­ments to write replies,” Takeuchi said.

On May 15, Takeuchi called for vol­un­teers liv­ing in the city to share their ex­pe­ri­ences after the out­break on China’s Twit­ter-like Sina Weibo net­work. After pre­par­ing for two weeks, he ar­rived in Wuhan, cap­i­tal of Hubei prov­ince, with his team to in­ter­view 10 se­lected fam­i­lies.

On June 1, after spend­ing a few hours on a bul­let train, the team ar­rived in Wuhan. Try­ing to avoid pre­con­ceived no­tions, they im­me­di­ately started to film.

“I thought peo­ple would still be ner­vous after ex­pe­ri­enc­ing such a big in­ci­dent, but at night, when we were out for a late snack, we found many peo­ple were there and eat­ing hap­pily to­gether, and I was fi­nally con­vinced the city was safe,” he said.

Though Wuhan’s sit­u­a­tion has im­proved, Takeuchi still saw the lin­ger­ing im­pact. The first words of the first man he in­ter­viewed were, “Don’t worry, I had a neg­a­tive nu­cleic acid test.”

As shoot­ing pro­gressed, Takeuchi found the in­ter­views go­ing smoothly. Many peo­ple wanted to as­sist or drive them around for free, and the ho­tel of­fered the group rooms at its low­est price. “I have shared my feel­ings on

weibo that I like this city more ev­ery day,” Takeuchi said, adding that dur­ing the shoot, he found many peo­ple they met were happy and the city is heal­ing.

Takeuchi has made two doc­u­men­taries about Nan­jing’s fight against the pan­demic and how the city is re­viv­ing. Both went vi­ral in Ja­pan.

“I saw some re­ports smear­ing or ly­ing about China. I hope the me­dia and peo­ple from other coun­tries see China’s ef­forts in con­tain­ing the epi­demic from an ob­jec­tive per­spec­tive,” he said.


A poster for the doc­u­men­tary Long Time No See, Wuhan

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