Synopsis“Open Heart” is the story of Angelique and Marie who – as will 6 other Rwandan children – leave their families behind and embark on a life-or-death journey to receive high-risk open-heart surgery in Africa’s only free-of-charge, state-of-the-art cardiac hospital, the Salam Centre run by Emergency, an Italian NGO. Their heart valves, damaged and weakened by rheumatic heart disease, which develops from untreated childhood strep throat, leave them lethargic and weak. Some of the children have only months to live.
During their cross-continental journey, “Open Heart” reveals the intertwined endeavors of Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza, Rwanda’s lone, overworked public cardiologist, and the fiercely committed Dr. Gino Strada, the Salam Centre’s head surgeon. As one of Emergency’s founders, he must fight not just for the children’s lives but for the tenuous financial future of the hospital.
To about a quarter, Salam Centre is funded by the administration of Sudan’s President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir – an indicted international war criminal. During a visit, he suggests fundraising ideas for the center, including building a private, for-profit facility nearby for wealthy patients, which in Dr. Gino’s opinion directly contradicts the entire ethos and guiding principle of hospital: that all patients should be treated free of charge.
The Salam Centre remains the only facility in Africa capable of such high-standard cardiac surgery, free of charge. At once a marvel of modern medical engineering and the triumph of an idea, Salam is key in Emergency’s plan to treat and reduce heart diseases in an area three times the size of Europe and home to 300 million people. Building a world-class, technologically advanced cardiac diagnostics and surgery facility in the middle of a desert in Northern Sudan is an impressive feat on its own. Making its services free (including lifelong regimens of prescription drugs and follow-up visits) to anyone who steps through its doors is just shy of revolutionary. The idea that “the Right to be Cured” should be accessible and free of charge to every member of the “human community,” is part of Emergency’s operating ethos. To accomplish that, the Centre serves as a hub for the program for pediatrics and cardiac surgery that Emergency is implementing throughout its own medical facilities and local hospitals across Africa.
In coproduction with Urban Landscapes and arte
In association with Whitewater Films, Believe Media and Stories of Change
A project of Sundance Institute - Documentary
Supported by Skoll Foundation and Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund
40mins or 52 mins