via press release:
OPEN HEART, THE MOVING STORY OF RWANDAN CHILDREN ON A
LIFE-SAVING JOURNEY TO RECEIVE OPEN HEART SURGERY,
DEBUTS OCT. 14, EXCLUSIVELY ON HBO
Heart disease is often associated with an unhealthy lifestyle in the West, but in Sub-Saharan Africa treatable maladies such as strep throat can lead to rheumatic fever that causes heart damage, especially in young children and teenagers. Though it is invasive, dangerous and prohibitively expensive, open heart surgery is almost always the only option to save their lives. OPEN HEART, spotlighting an Italian cardiologist in Northern Sudan as he fights to save young patients who have traveled from Rwanda for this high-risk procedure, debuts MONDAY, OCT. 14 (10:20-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
Other HBO playdates: Oct. 14 (5:20 a.m.), 17 (4:30 p.m.), 19 (5:30 p.m.), 23 (8:00 a.m.) and 27 (1:30 p.m.)
HBO2 playdates: Oct. 16 (9:30 p.m.) and Oct. 22 (6:40 a.m.)
OPEN HEART is one of three nominees for this year’s Documentary Short Subject Oscar® debuting back-to-back Oct. 14 on HBO, along with “Mondays at Racine,” which debuts at 9:00 p.m., and “Redemption,” debuting at 9:40 p.m. Other October presentations in the HBO Documentary Films fall series include “Valentine Road” (Oct. 7), “Life According to Sam” (Oct. 21) and “Seduced and Abandoned” (Oct. 28).
Sudan’s Salam Centre for Cardiac Emergency is the only hospital on the entire continent that provides free heart surgery for patients from poverty-stricken regions. Dr. Gino Strada, an Italian war surgeon who believes “the right to receive proper health care is a universal right,” founded the non-governmental organization Emergency, which runs the Salam Center, funded by private donors and the Sudanese Government.
Ranging in age from three to 19, eight children who suffer from rheumatic heart disease are selected by Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza, Rwanda’s lone public cardiologist, to travel the long distance to the state-of-the-art Salam Center. It may seem like the chance of a lifetime, yet doing so means going under the knife in a foreign place without the comfort of family. The father of Angelique, a six-year-old deemed to be in critical condition, is afraid, but says, “I am ready to accept what happens to her,” a testament to the bravery of the children and parents alike.
Given the critical condition of his patients, Dr. Strada is frequently skeptical about their chances of success, but with the help of his medical team, he presses on, hoping for the best. However, his worries extend beyond the operating room.
While the young Rwandan patients are recovering, Dr. Strada and his team are visited by Sudan’s president, Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity.” When the Sudanese government’s $5 million-per-year commitment to Emergency is in jeopardy, so too is the Salam Centre’s future. In a meeting with President al-Bashir, Dr. Strada vigorously pursues the funding. As the Rwandan children return home to the loving embraces of their families, the dedicated surgeons continue their fight to save lives.
For more information, visit: Facebook: facebook.com/hbodocs; Twitter: @HBODocs #OpenHeart; and openheartfilm.com.
OPEN HEART was produced and directed by Kief Davidson; produced by Cori Shepherd Stern; executive produced by Geralyn Dreyfous, Rick Rosenthal, Nancy Stephens, Eric Dobkin, Sean Mewshaw, Desi Van Til, Cara Mertes, Heidi Lindelof, Damon Lindelof and Abigail Disney; edited by Flavia de Souza and Kief Davidson; director of photography, Zak Mulligan.