26 June, 2008
by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
SILVERDOCS: AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival announced its distinguished award winners this past weekend, culminating the weeklong Festival activities that included screening 108 films representing 63 countries, free outdoor screenings and live performances, and a five-day concurrent International Documentary Conference attended by over 650 filmmakers, film and television executives and media professionals. Winning filmmakers received over $70,000 in combined cash and in-kind prizes.
The Festival made a commitment this year to honor international documentary production with the SILVERDOCS Sterling Award for a World Feature. The winner this year was The English Surgeon directed by Geoffrey Smith. The film tells the story of British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh, who performs surgery in the Ukraine with the crudest tools. The director will receive $10,000 cash and $5,000 in film stock from Kodak. The jury acclaimed the film as “the most poignant and inspiring film we saw - a film that profiles two human beings who dare to step outside the system to do something extraordinary, and becomes a delicate, deep, and respectful exploration of life, death friendship and hope."
British neurosurgeon Henry Marsh resides in South London and has a practice at the local hospital nearby. But over the past 16 years, he has spent several weeks annually in Ukraine performing brain surgeries. In a country where neurosurgery barely exists, he passes on his knowledge—and suitcases of equipment—to his friend Dr. Igor Kurilets.
The English Surgeon follows Dr. Marsh on one of his visits, documenting the steep challenges to, and need for, improved care in Ukraine. The doctors treat patients with extraordinarily dangerous diseases under grueling conditions. They are often forced to improvise for a lack of equipment, such as performing one surgery with a Bosch cordless home power drill. Marsh’s extraordinary surgical skills are matched by his ability to teach; he is passing on knowledge that can save and improve hundreds more lives.
The film was produced by Evelene Productions of Leeds, UK and was distributed in the UK by the British Broadcasting Corporation. The film had its world premiere at the London Film Festival and has been seen on television in the UK and other European territories. For more information on the film, visit the official website: www.theenglishsurgeon.com.