‘Chinese Doctors’ salutes Wuhan medical workers against COVID-19
On the front line
Published: Jul 08, 2021 07:03 PM
Promotional material for <em>Chinese Doctors</em> Photo: Courtesy of Bona Film

Promotional material for Chinese Doctors Photo: Courtesy of Bona Film

The pandemic-themed movie Chinese Doctors is set to hit cinemas in China on Friday. The film pays tribute to Chinese medical workers and ordinary people, especially those who worked at the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, by focusing on their fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan in early 2020.

The first coronavirus infectious case in China was reported in Wuhan, and the Jinyintan Hospital became the front line to battle over the virus. While many locals were not familiar with the infectious disease specialist hospital, it quickly became the most important battlefield in China's fight against the pandemic. 

The film starring many well-known Chinese entertainers including actors Zhang Hanyu and Zhu Yawen as well as actresses Yuan Quan and Li Qin, is based on the tough battle Wuhan medical workers faced during the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic.

The characters in the film are based on medical personnel in Wuhan and the medical teams from other provinces and cities across the country. Among them, Zhang Dingyu (played by Zhang Hanyu), head of Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital, is a central figure.

The cast and several medical workers who had worked in Wuhan attended the premiere held in Beijing on Tuesday and later shared their feelings about the film.

Battle against death

After the outbreak, in order to control the spread of the virus, the Jinyintan Hospital transformed its offices into an ICU, which received and undertook treatment of a large number of coronovirus patients in severe or critical condition. 

Despite the massive influx of patients, the hospital bought time until medical help from outside the province could arrive. The film shows the tense and dangerous situation at the hospital during the outbreak. Racing against time, medical workers couldn't find even a moment to rest as they strived to save as many patients' lives as they could. 

The medical workers played by the actors and actresses in the movie face one challenge after another as they try to snatch people from the jaws of death. Scenes of doctors trying to resuscitate patients through CPR or acting quickly to keep their airways opened sent the audiences' hearts into their throats. 

To prepare for his role, Zhang Hanyu followed the other Zhang for a few days at the hospital right before shooting. 

"During that time, I made ward rounds with him every day to experience the work of a doctor. I was deeply impressed by his distinct personality, and then integrated my observations of him into my performance," Zhang recalled at a press conference at the premiere.

Yuan Quan plays Wen Ting, director of the ICU. In order to recreate the conditions medical workers worked under, Yuan wore a protective suit for such a long time that the mask left a deep indentation on her cheeks while her goggles and mask left her soaked with sweat.

Striking a chord

After the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, more than 40,000 medical workers from around the country went to the city to provide aid. About 70 percent of these personnel were nurses, according to Tencent News.

Some of these medical workers attended the premiere and watched the movie with the production team. Many of them shed tears as the film recalled their memories of their time fighting against the virus. 

"I remembered the days when I fought side by side with my comrades. The work brought back those unforgettable memories," one medical worker said at the premiere.

They expressed their determination to protect the country. 

"During normal time, we are ordinary doctors who protect the health of ordinary people, but when the country needs us, we can also become national soldiers to safeguard the security of the country!" said another medical worker.

In July 2020, before the film began to be shot, the production team led by director Andrew Lau and Yu Dong, chairman of Bona Film Group, talked with Zhong Nanshan, a top respiratory disease expert who played a leading role in the battle against the coronavirus in China.

Zhong put forward some of his expectations for the film at the meeting held in Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province. 

"There are still some misunderstandings about China among foreign people," Zhong said, noting that he hopes the film can strike a chord with overseas audiences. 

"Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western medicine may be different, but the ultimate goal of medicine is to save the dying and heal the sick. It treats patients the same regardless of race, color and sex, as well as age or nationality; its foundation is humanitarianism," said Shi Wenxue, a Beijing-based cultural critic.

Shi said that the movie is fundamentally a good story and that the production team should work hard to promote the film in the global film market to allow more people to see it. Using a common "film language" to create understanding can help touch people's hearts and eliminate misunderstandings, he added.