Dr. Popov and his team are pushed to their limits as their sleepy Bulgarian provincial town of Kyustendil is hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. In an endless stream, family members, neighbors and classmates find themselves side by side in respiratory unit beds, or standing at the bedsides. When patients are discharged, transferred to intensive care, or die, a new patient immediately takes their place.
The humane and resolute nurses and doctors manage to keep their spirits up with black humor, because death is a constant presence in this medical microcosm and it’s impossible to add up the overtime. In cinema verité style, the filmmakers follow the medical staff through corridors echoing with both moans and laughter.
Ilian Metev—who previously examined the Bulgarian healthcare system in Sofia’s Last Ambulance (2012)—and his co-directors Ivan Chertov and Zlatina Teneva carefully steer clear of sensationalism. Provincial Hospital, awarded at the Karlovy Vary film festival, focuses on the medical staff and their experiences of the crisis.