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The English Surgeon

Tuesday, March 31

Nominated for two Cinema Eye Honors for Best International Documentary and a soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, THE ENGLISH SURGEON openly confronts moral and ethical issues which touch every one of us.

What is it like to have God like surgical powers, yet to struggle against your own humanity? What is it like to try and save a life, and yet to fail? This film follows brain surgeon Henry Marsh as he openly confronts the dilemmas of the doctor patient relationship on his latest mission to the Ukraine.

Henry is one of London’s foremost brain surgeons, but despite being a pioneer in his field he stills rides an old pushbike to work and worries himself sick about the damage he can inflict on his patients. When push comes to shove we can afford to lose an arm or a leg, but I am operating on people’s thoughts and feelings…and if something goes wrong I can destroy that person’s character …forever”.

Driven by the need to help others where he can, Henry has been going out to Kiev for over 15 years to help improve upon the medieval brain surgery he witnessed there during his first visit in 1992. Today the patients see him as the great savior from the West, desperate parents want him to save their child, and his Ukrainian colleague Igor Kurilets sees him as a guru and a benefactor. But for all the direct satisfaction he gets from going, Henry also sees grossly misdiagnosed patients, children who he can’t save, and a lack of equipment and trained supporting staff. “It’s like selling your soul to the devil, but what can you do? My son had a brain tumor as a baby and I was desperate for someone to help me. I simply can’t walk away from that need in others.”

Part of the Spring 2009 season of the Stranger Than Fiction documentary series.