National Geographic Adds ‘The Cave’ to Crowded Documentary Oscar Race — Exclusive

Anne Thompson

National Geographic has added Feras Fayyad’s “The Cave,” the latest non-fiction effort from the director of the Oscar-nominated “Last Men in Aleppo,” to its 2019 feature documentary slate. The new film will be released in theaters this fall and compete in an increasingly crowded documentary feature field for the Oscar.

“The Cave” unveils the harrowing true story of an underground Syrian hospital and the team of civilians and medical professionals led by women who risk their lives to provide medical care to the besieged local population.

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The film follows 30-year-old Dr. Amani, an aspiring pediatrician forced to end her studies and medical training due to the war in Syria, as she becomes the appointed leader of a team of 130 medical practitioners in the secret hospital serving the 400,000 civilians of the besieged city of Al Ghouta from 2012 to 2018. Due to the nonstop onslaught of conventional and chemical warfare, brutalized and displaced victims constantly flood the subterranean haven through secret entrances and tunnels. Despite the limited supply of medical resources, Dr. Amani and her team work tirelessly to restore health and hope.

The film is produced in partnership with the team at Danish Documentary (producers are Kirstine Barfod and Sigrid Dyekjær, with executive producers Eva Mulvad, Pernille Rose Grønkjær and Mikala Krogh). For National Geographic Documentary Films, executive producers are Carolyn Bernstein and Ryan Harrington. For National Geographic Channel, executive producer is Matt Renner.

Fayyad earned an Oscar nomination for Syria documentary “Last Men in Aleppo.” National Geographic’s documentary film unit recently won the Oscar and BAFTA for Best Documentary Feature of 2018 for “Free Solo.” NatGeo recently announced greenlights for Ron Howard’s “Rebuilding Paradise” and “The Untitled Thai Cave Rescue Project” from director Kevin Macdonald (“One Day in September”) and is being honored by the Museum of the Moving Image tonight with the 2019 Moving Image Award.

In a statement, Fayyad said that the idea for the film came to him while he was detailed by the Syrian regime for a previous film. “”I witnessed the suppression and torturing of women, an inhuman shameless pride of cruelty, in prison,” he said. “Not only because they were prisoners but because they were women. I also observed one of the most atrocious war crimes in modern history when the Syrian regime used chemical weapons to attack Al Ghouta in 2013. These experiences were shockingly frightening and unforgettable, but even worse, the rest of the world looked on silently. I knew I had to challenge the inaction and I felt morally responsible to expose the effects of the war crimes.” For “The Cave,” he wanted “to paint a human picture of the Syrian War through the eyes of these unsuspecting female heroes, and for the film to be a global call to action for response to this humanitarian crisis.”

NatGeo has yet to announce a release date for “The Cave,” though it is likely to make its way to theaters this fall after a festival run. Last year’s future Oscar winner “Free Solo” premiered at Telluride followed by TIFF.

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