Directed by Ilian Metev, Ivan Chertov, Zlatina Teneva, documentary, 110 min, eng subtitles, 12+
Written by Ilian Metev, Ivan Chertov, Zlatina Teneva
Kyustendil is a sleepy town in the mountains of South-western Bulgaria, which has been hit hard by Covid. In a small community, patients meet former classmates in the same hospital room. Jokes and laughter can often be heard through the corridors, but death is never far away. Many patients live in constant fear of deteriorating quickly and being sent to the intensive care unit ‘upstairs’ where only a handful of people are known to have survived. Presiding over the perpetual stream of complicated cases is Dr Popov. Tall and kind-hearted, for some he has a witty line, for others a quote from Kant. Through the quiet dread in the hospital, he emits a mountain of human warmth.
With its unique access and touching personal stories, the film gives a high-level cinematic experience with engaging insights into the characters' stories. It is a profound documentary observation on the pandemic with delicate character-driven scenes and gradually unfolding details. The directors spent some 70 days with full access to the hospital's Intensive Care Unit, sometimes even serving as medical assistants to the doctors.