USA/The Philippines, 2017, 94 minutes, DCP, Rated G

Presented by: Ramona S. Diaz

Director: Ramona S. Diaz

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Baltimore-based documentarian Ramona Diaz has taken us into Imelda Marcos’ closets, has explored the world of Filipino women recruited to teach in U.S. public schools, and has shown the odd challenges of being the new lead singer for an iconic rock band after being found on YouTube. This time, Diaz and her team take us into one of the world’s busiest maternity wards, in Manila’s National Maternity Hospital.

It is an incredible place, almost overwhelmed by the relentless volume, poverty, and limited resources. It is also an exemplar of human health care. Against multiple odds, mothers and health-care professionals do all they can to care for each other and their newborns. In some cases, the maternity ward is where some mothers first learn about pregnancy and real birth control. We are immersed in this remarkable place because the filmmaker resists any staged interviews or explanatory graphics. Diaz is the perfect guide through the chaos. Her eye and editing instincts are so good we see telling details and linger long enough with individual women, and sometimes their partners, to care deeply about them.

Filled with an empowering human spirit, Motherland has had screenings at both this year’s Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. (Jed Dietz)