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The Cave

Deep beneath the surface in the Syrian province of Ghouta, a group of female doctors have established an underground field hospital. Under the supervision of paediatrician Dr. Amani and her staff of doctors and nurses, hope is restored for some of the thousands of children and civilian victims of the ruthless Syrian civil war.

"Entering theaters at a timely moment, “The Cave” is a frightening immersion in life under siege in Syria that, as difficult as it often is to watch, can’t come close to replicating how harrowing it must have been to film.

The setting of the documentary, from the Syrian-born director Feras Fayyad (“Last Men in Aleppo”), is a subterranean hospital on the outskirts of Damascus connected to the world outside by tunnels and basement shelters. (With the site difficult to reach, Fayyad directed remotely for much of the shoot, relying on three cinematographers.)

The hospital is managed by Dr. Amani Ballour, a pediatrician who, in a fiercely patriarchal culture, must contend with skepticism from men when not addressing children’s injuries. One of her colleagues is Dr. Salim Namour, who, in a grim motif, cues up his iPhone with classical music before operating. Samaher, a nurse who cooks, comments that even making rice has become dangerous: “Every time there is a bomb, I run to the other side. That’s part of the cooking.” (Food is in short supply and malnutrition is rampant, although there is popcorn for Dr. Ballour’s 30th birthday.)

The rumble of warplanes and bombs might make “The Cave” sound overproduced — if this weren’t a documentary. (Additional title cards might have helped to orient the viewer, though.) As medicine runs short or the hospital is rushed with the victims of a chemical attack (doctors must wear masks and discard patients’ clothes), the space feels increasingly claustrophobic. There is no endgame here; the doctors can only do their best as the situation grows worse." - New York Times

Directed by: 
Feras Fayyad
Running Time: 
90m
Country(ies): 
Syria | Denmark | Germany | Qatar | USA
Year: 
2019
Language: 
Arabic | English
Starring: 
Amani Ballour
Rated: 
PG

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