‘The Cave’ a documentary of tragedy and hope we must all see

Feras Fayyad, known for his Oscar-nominated film Last Man in Aleppo just released his most recent documentary, The Cave, which chronicles the harrowing experiences of Dr. Amani Ballour and her medical team as they navigate the realities of running a hospital under the constant bombing of Russian and Syrian warplanes. While the Syrian war has been waged for over half a decade, and news cycles are seemingly overlooking it, The Cave is a shocking reminder of what happened during some of the darkest days of the Syrian war, what is still happening, and why we cannot overlook its continuing human cost.

While this film is about the darkness of war, Fayyad crafts a story that is at the same time delicate, with powerful moments of humour that serve to highlight the humanity that the subjects of the film try to cling onto. It’s hard to ignore the juxtaposition of a nurse trying to cook a meal, while joking to a co-worker that she is terrified of the bombings. She rushes for cover at the occasional booms that remind us that her life could be lost at any moment. In fact, during the credits of the film, we discover that several staff members did indeed lose their lives throughout the course of filming. 

One of the most harrowing portions of the film deals with Bashar Al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own citizens. While to this day denying its use, it’s clearly insinuated in the film that they were used indiscriminately and had severe impact on everyone—elderly and children as well. It’s in moments like these in The Cave makes viewers truly understand the realities of what the people in Syria felt. It’s a true sense of fear, hopelessness, yet perseverance that Fayyad captures.

Because of the films Fayyad has made, he was once tortured in a Syrian prison. In a recent screening, in Los Angeles, he said that while he was being tortured, their goal was to make him want to die—and they succeeded—he claimed that he wanted to die in prison. But he also said that what he realised was that they were scared of something that he had the power to do. It was more powerful than bullets. It was a story about a strong woman, saving the lives of the people the Russians and Al-Bashar were killing. It is the story of a young woman running a hospital in a country where women aren’t even supposed to be doctors.

The Cave is a poignant film that everyone needs to see. It is a testament to the bravery of the Syrians who have been subject to bombings, and chemical attacks. It is a testament to the strength of a woman who stood out against the norms of her culture to prove that women should be taken seriously. And finally, it is a testament to the human soul and its unweilding strength against seemingly insurmountable odds.

The cave is still making its way around festivals around the world, but it will eventually be available on Disney +  in 2020.

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