The Cave

Amani Ballour in 'The Cave.' (Photo supplied: National Geographic)
Amani Ballour in 'The Cave.' (Photo supplied: National Geographic)


Amidst air strikes and bombings, a group of female doctors in Ghouta, Syria struggle with systemic sexism while trying to care for the injured using limited resources.


The Oscar-nominated documentary The Cave gives an unprecedented look at a team of doctors working in a makeshift hospital during the Syrian Civil War.

Directed by Feras Fayyad, it is a companion piece to his 2017 film Last Men in Aleppo.

It follows Amani Ballour, a female doctor who is the manager of a makeshift hospital nicknamed 'The Cave' in Ghouta.

Despite a lack of resources, medical equipment, medication, and the constant bombing by Russian airstrikes, Amani and her team do their best to give patients the best care. Apart from dealing with the harsh conditions, she also has to deal with men who say she should be at home and not managing a hospital. Yet, she forges on her skills, proving that she is quite capable.

How these doctors manage to work in such a hopeless situation is a testament to how earnestly they take their oath. There is a particularly heart-breaking moment when Amani breaks down – always strong in the face of all this – her vulnerability shows another side to the superwoman. 

Amongst the medical procedures, the constant streams of injured bodies, there is also some lightness to the film, specifically in the interactions with the team.

There is a doctor who plays classical music during surgery; there is light banter over recipes and bad food, and a surprise birthday party. This sense of normality is juxtaposed with the reality that just outside the hospital walls, another bomb has just gone off.

One of the most jarring imagery is the after effects of a chemical attack which is filmed like a scene from a horror movie; it's almost unreal. It's a punch to the gut; this has really happened; it's still happening. It's a wake-up call that the situation in Syria, which is far removed for most of us, is one of the most atrocious crimes of our time.

The Cave is an unfiltered look at Syria behind the headlines. It is a thought-provoking piece of filmmaking, and after seeing it, you will never be the same.

The Cave premieres on Sunday, 8 March at 21:00 on National Geographic (DStv 181)


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