November 15, 2019 – This is an amazing story of survival and human compassion in the midst of one of the most brutal bombing campaigns in history. This documentary film, set in an underground hospital on the outskirts of Damascus, in the city of Ghouta, under siege in the Syrian war, is directed by Feras Fayyad (“Last Men in Aleppo”).
In charge of the hospital is pediatrician Dr. Amani Ballour, elected by her fellow doctors to this position, a thing unheard of in the male-dominated Syrian society. She is a capable and compassionate doctor and administrator. According to one doctor, responding to a man who complains about a woman being in charge, three elections were held and she was elected head of staff each time. He told the man that Amani is in charge because she is good at it.
The film opens with enormous explosions in Ghouta, which has largely been reduced to rubble by Syrian and Russian planes and helicopters. The explosions cause numerous injuries, treated at the underground hospital, called The Cave. Drugs and food are in short supply in Ghouta. Many of the children treated by the doctors are suffering from malnutrition. Amani, in despair over this, says she would rather starve than see these children suffer from a lack of food.
Following some of the bombing attacks, the small hospital is flooded with the injured. The staff works hard for long hours to save as many as they can. They save many, but they can't save them all. Doctors are seen crying after losing some patients. This is made harder by the fact that some of those they operate on are neighbors, friends or colleagues.
As grisly and brutal as these injuries are, the chemical attacks are even worse. Men, women and children come into the hospital, trying desperately to breathe, gasping piteously for air, despite no apparent blast injuries. There is little the doctors can do for them. High in the sky, pilots and their crews rain death on the civilians below. The civilians have been through so many bombings, they know the planes from the sound and they know who is flying them, the Syrian military, or the Russians. In one scene, a weary Amani wishes that god would kill the Russians.
The hospital patients and staff are under constant threat from the bombing. Their fear is apparent in some scenes. At the end of the film is a list of staff members who were killed during the filming of The Cave. Amani is seen and heard talking to her father on a phone at times. He is critical of her decision to stay in Ghouta and urges her to leave. It becomes clear later, however, that he is proud of her. Despite their fear and their despair at times that there is little good they can do, they stick with it.
In the midst of this brutal war, the compassion and bravery of those working at this underground hospital is inspiring. They are true heroes. This is a very powerful film, made by a very brave and compassionate film crew. It rates an A.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.