Filmmaker Malcolm Clarke, a two-time Best Documentary Short Subject winner, is in production on Wuhan – A Season In Hell, a feature-length documentary about the ground zero of the coronavirus pandemic.
The film will chronicle the initial days of the global pandemic in Wuhan’s ERs and ICUs and the scale of the local outbreak, which saw 42,000 doctors and nurses across China volunteer to travel to Hubei Province to help battle the lethal disease.
Taking up residence in a secure hotel adjacent to the wet market where the virus is alleged to have emanated, Clarke and his team of 20 filmmakers were initially detained and forcibly quarantined by the local government, but ultimately gained exclusive access to the stricken city of Wuhan at the height of the COVID-19 crisis.
Accompanied by an infectious disease specialist, the film reconstructs the events surrounding the birth of the pandemic and includes interviews with traders at the wet market, local doctors, volunteers, senior officials investigating the outbreak of the virus, and several of the first patients diagnosed with COVID-19, all of whom recount the experience of what happened in those bewildering early days.
The doc will investigate the outbreak of the pandemic, the ensuing response, and goes on to recount the decisiveness and scale with which China responded. A country-wide call went out for volunteers and within 48 hours, 80,000 highly skilled doctors, nurses, ambulance medics and construction workers were on the move.
The film features ambulance crews who journeyed more than 2000 miles by road, and others who came by rail and air in a frantic dash to reach the ‘ground zero’ where, in a matter of days, they built two 1,000-bed hospitals and transformed the city’s existing medical facilities into vast, combat-zone ICUs.
The ARTeFACT Entertainment production, is produced by Shanghai-based independent producer Han Yi, who previously collaborated with Clarke on doc Better Angel. CAA Media Finance reps world distribution rights.
“This is by far the most challenging film I’ve ever made, shooting a film in a place where the country, the entire society, has taken itself to ‘war,’” said Prisoner Of Paradise and The Lady In Number 6 director Clarke. “The Wuhan experience has since become a microcosm – an object lesson in how the whole world could, and perhaps should have responded to this terrifying, invisible, mortal threat. This film is about responsibility; it’s the stories of those who stepped up and risked their lives, and the stories of those who could’ve done much more.”
“I never expected my first working experience in China to be in the epicenter of a plague,” said DOP Fejmi Daut, who is best known for Oscar-nominee Honeyland, the only film in the history of the Academy Awards to receive nominations for both International Feature Film and Best Documentary. “I had to get used to operating cameras with three layers of PPE. I really felt the fear and pain of the Wuhan people.”
“We sincerely hope that lessons can be learned from the Wuhan experience,” added producer Yi. “By understanding what happened and bravely dealing with the devastation and pain, we hope that the City of Wuhan will come back stronger in the broken places.”