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Ghost Canyon

(Lea Lumanog, Aira Joy Jubilo, Lerma Coronel, et al / DVD / NR / (2017) 2018 / Film Rise - MVD Visual)

Overview: 'Motherland' takes us into the heart of the planet's busiest maternity hospital in one of the world's poorest and most populous countries: the Philippines. The film's viewer, like an unseen outsider dropped unobtrusively into the hospital's stream of activity, passes through hallways, enters rooms and listens in on conversations.

DVD Verdict: Sundance winner 'Motherland' takes us to a place, to places, in fact, that no camera's have ever been before which unleashes a stream of viewing absorption that, I myself, have never, ever come close to having viewed before in this genre.

'Motherland' is set at one of the world’s largest and busiest maternity hospitals in the Philippines. Writer/Director/Producer Ramona S. Diaz’s film follows three women as they navigate through the severe conditions of giving birth there — from jam-packed delivery rooms to overflowing corridors where babies are misplaced and then found.

At first, the surrounding people are strangers, but as the film continues, it's absorbingly intimate, rendering the women at the heart of the story increasingly familiar. Three women - Lea, Aira and Lerma - emerge to share their stories with other mothers, their families, doctors and social workers.

While each of them faces daunting odds at home, their optimism, honesty and humor suggest a strength that they will certainly have to summon in the years ahead.

That said, wow, the hospital itself is quite something to see. Two moms to a bed, announcements, people assigned numbers, it feels like you're watching some twilight zone birthing boot camp. The KMC (kangaroo mother care) unit was prominently featured in the documentary, apparently these are babies that would be in incubators in the US, but the doctors at the hospital have found a way to simulate it to a degree since they do not have the funding to afford incubators.

It's quite interesting to watch and see how different it is. There are a couple of sad reminders of how the lack of funding affects the babies and families; one father who has a KMC baby is speaking to another father about how his previous child had been in KMC, but died of a blood infection.

So, not all triumphs over adversity here, but 'Motherland' shows direction and and eye-opening look at a side of the world that rarely see; here in our privileged, and broader, so to speak, US of A. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1:85.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.