Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Movie Review: The Cave

The Cave **** / *****
Directed by: Feras Fayyad
Written by: Alisar Hasan, Feras Fayyad.
The Cave is one of those rare movies that can both inspire you and devastate you about your fellow humans. It is a film about selfless heroes, working in an underground hospital in Syria, tending to the wounded who are able to make it there – through a series of underground tunnels – even though the odds they face are staggering. Lots of people are dragged there, and it’s already too late for them – many others don’t have much hope. Most of the doctors in the area have already fled – but some have stayed, a few students, quite of few of them women, and they do their best to save lives, comfort children, and just try and get their people through another day. It is inspiring to see their selflessness. The film can also leave you feeling hopeless and depressed – for all of their work, things still do not end well.
The film was directed by Feras Fayyad, who also directed Last Men in Aleppo (2017) – which, like The Cave, was an Oscar nominee for Best Documentary. That film was about volunteer with the White Helmets – the team who went around in Aleppo after bombings, and tried to dig survivors out of the rubble to save their lives – and another of those films that can leave you inspired and crushed at the same time. This time, the film takes place in Eastern Ghouta – but the situation is basically the same. The Syrian regime, and their Russian backers, are bombing the civilian population to get at the rebels, causing a massive humanitarian crisis, which the rest of the world thinks is really very sad, but hasn’t really done anything about.
The central figure in The Cave is Dr. Amani Ballour, a pediatrician, who is one of the young, female doctors who have stayed behind to staff this hospital. She has a lot of patience in her – doesn’t even get mad at the male patients who get mad at her, wishing there was a male doctor managing the hospital, and telling her that her place should be at home raising children (you would think they would be grateful for the assistance – but you’d be wrong). She is kind and patient – does her best to save as many lives as possible, to comfort the children who come in screaming and crying and covered in dust and blood. You cannot say that she is upbeat or optimistic – but she certainly doesn’t give up.
As with any movie about Syria, there are moments and shots that you cannot forget, that engrave themselves into your brain, and won’t let go – the other wailing over her dead son, angry at him for dying for instance. The film also covers the panic and devastation that resulted when the government gasses their own people – how the hospital had to deal with the people effected and protect those who were not.
The film was released the same year as another wonderful documentary about Syria – For Sama – which is also about the selfless actions of doctors trying to save lives, and specifically how it is women who are doing a lot of the front-line work. Both films are wonderful – and should be seen – even if both basically end the same way – with the only thing left to do is leave if you can. The Syrian humanitarian crisis has been well-documented for years now – I’ve lost count of how many documentaries on it I have seen by this point. In the future, we marvel, and feel ashamed, of just how little we did.

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