2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: MOTHERLAND

Ramona S Diaz ushers viewers through a maternity hospital like no other.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition


Sundance Program Description:

This stirring vérité portrait takes us into the heart of the planet’s busiest maternity hospital – a world unto itself in the Philippines. Unseen observers in this frenetic and understaffed landscape, we enter hectic birthing rooms and pass through overcrowded hallways bursting with life. Babies are lost and found, and multiple mothers share a single bed.

The camera glides intimately and effortlessly around the hospital, unlocking nuances of this intricate ecosystem. There is a remarkably calm air of acceptance to this tumultuous scene that can only be understood by a mother on her seventh child. Despite the harsh, unsanitary circumstances, a supportive community of women – from doctors and nurses to social workers – makes this world thrive. Imbued with optimism, humor, and a specific type of strength, mothers exit the doors of the hospital and return to the bustling street outside. Through her sensitive documentation of these personal journeys to motherhood, filmmaker Ramona S Diaz reveals larger truths about the lack of reproductive health care policy in one of the most populous countries in the world.

Some Background:

  • Ramona S Diaz
    Past Sundance docs:

    IMELDA (2004, Documentary Cinematography Award)

    Diaz makes her return to Sundance with her fifth feature documentary. Past work has screened at IDFA, Tribeca, Dubai, and Pusan, among other notable events.


  • Rey Cuerdo
    Cuerdo is a veteran executive at Sony Pictures who has produced or executive produced several Filipino films over the past 15 years. This is his first Sundance credit.

Executive Producers:

  • Brillante Ma Mendoza
    The acclaimed Filipino auteur has had several narratives screen at Cannes – including his latest, MA’ ROSA and the Palme d’Or winning KINATAY – and at Venice and Berlin. This marks his first Sundance project.

  • Sally Jo Fifer
    Past Sundance docs:

    NEWTOWN (2016)
    TRAPPED (2016)
    (T)ERROR (2015)

    President/CEO of ITVS Fifer has regularly provided funding and broadcast support for past Sundance films. She is also an executive producer for fellow 2017 US Documentary Competition titles THE FORCE and QUEST.

  • Justine Nagan and Chris White
    Combined past Sundance docs:

    PERVERT PARK (2015)
    LIFE ITSELF (2014)

    American Documentary’s Executive Director and Executive Producer respectively frequently include Sundance alumni as part of the long-running POV series on PBS. Nagan previously served as Executive Director of Kartemquin, for which she executive produced LIFE ITSELF. Both also serve as executive producers for this year’s QUEST.


  • Leah Marino
    Past Sundance credits:


Why You Should Watch:
Diaz masterfully captures the Fabella Memorial Hospital and a number of immediately engaging subjects, guiding audiences into their world and experiences of motherhood so completely that it almost feels as if they’ve been watching a continuing series for several seasons.

More Info:

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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