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'Chinese Doctors': A time to remember

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, July 10, 2021
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The night falls, and the light show begins. On July 4, buildings along the banks of the Yangtze River in Wuhan flashed tribute messages to medical workers while 600 drones lined the sky. Hovering above the city, they formed various touching images such as doctors fighting on the frontline of COVID-19 battle and an outline of Wuhan’s landmark Yellow Crane Tower surrounded by beautiful cherry blossoms.

Director Andrew Lau and producer Yu Dong watch the light show from a cruise ship in Wuhan, Hubei province. The show was held in remembrance of the work undertaken by China's dedicated medical workers during the COVID-19 epidemic, July 4, 2021. [Photo courtesy of MicroEnt]

The cast and crew of "Chinese Doctors," positioned on a cruise ship on the river, had a front-row seat to the spectacle. From there, they watched the magnificent display and performed a rendition of "Endless Wave in Hong Lake," an ode to Hubei province's famous lake.

"I have seen varying cuts of the film many times, but every time I watch them, I cry," said Yu Dong, chairman of Bona Film Group and producer of the film. "We wanted to make the film to show the world how the frontline doctors made it through the hard times. We need to remember this time and to record an unforgettable year."

Five rounds of standing ovations nearly brought down the theater after the premiere at Wuhan's Hongshan Auditorium, giving locals in what was the former epicenter of the epidemic the opportunity to see the film first. Local representatives of medical workers, police, urban management, medical teachers and students, and anti-epidemic role models attended the event. Many were moved to tears.

There were similar reactions when the film showed in Beijing on Tuesday and at other advanced screening events in Chongqing, Shanghai, and various other cities.

Cast and crew pose for photos at a screening of  "Chinese Doctors" in Beijing on July 6, 2021. [Photo courtesy of MicroEnt]

"China is really amazing; we made it through the epidemic and won," director Andrew Lau said. The director, best known for "Infernal Affairs" and "The Captain," described how the crew hired more than 30 experts as consultants and to train actors to reenact the actual events captured in the film. After each day of filming, the actors, selected medical workers, and experts would check the footage for any errors.

"If things went wrong, we would re-shoot it all over again," Lau said.

Medical workers who attended the screenings recognized their efforts to remain true to the real-life events, saying that they found the scenes very realistic.

Dr. Zhang Wenhong, who heads the Center for Infectious Diseases at Huashan Hospital of Fudan University in Shanghai, and who has been one of the most authoritative figures on COVID-19 since the outbreak, said he went into the film's screening in Shanghai ready to nitpick, "But it went beyond my expectations... I basically didn't find any errors during its running time."

A significant portion of the film takes place in Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital, with actor Zhang Hanyu basing his character on Zhang Dingyu, the head of the hospital. Zhang Dingyu was the recipient of the honorary title of "People's Hero" for treating and saving more than 2,800 coronavirus patients with his colleagues.

"This is a true tearjerker," Zhang Dingyu commented. "The temper and some habits of the character in the film were based off of me, but those heroic, courageous, and resolute characteristics are epitome of all medical workers."

(From left to right) Actor Zhang Hanyu stands next to the man who inspired his character, Zhang Dingyu, the head of the Jinyintan Hospital, while Dr. Zhang Jixian, director of respiratory and critical care medicine department of the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine and the first doctor to report the coronavirus, stands next to actress Yuan Quan, who plays her in the film. The actors and health workers appeared together on stage at the film’s premiere in Wuhan, Hubei province, July 4, 2021. [Photo courtesy of MicroEnt]

To capture his personality and observe and learn how he behaves in real life, actor Zhang Hanyu traveled to Wuhan to live and work with Zhang Dingyu. "I'm so impressed by his passion and compassion during critical moments. He is a real hero, a leader, a tough guy, and he's pragmatic, down-to-earth, and optimistic," the actor said.

The creative team entered Wuhan soon after the city's 76-day lockdown ended in early April 2020. They then set out to document valuable first-hand information and conduct in-depth interviews with hundreds of frontline workers. Executive producer Peggy Lee Kam-Man said the whole crew overcame many difficulties during that time and implemented strict epidemic prevention measures.

A poster for the film "Chinese Doctors," set for release on July 9, 2021. A line on the poster reads: "Thank you all for going all out and risking your life to save us." [Photo courtesy of Bona Film Group]

Li Chen, the actor who plays a Shanghai doctor who travels to Wuhan during the epidemic, recounted how in one scene, he was on the top of a riverside building shouting, "Go Wuhan!" He then noticed that many nearby residents echoed his call and spontaneously shouted, "Go Wuhan! Go China!" back at him.

"I was deeply touched by this," Li said.

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