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Saving Soweto


Left Hand Films, in collaboration with Fort Greene Filmworks, has produced an eight-part documentary series, Saving Soweto, on the world’s largest hospital, Chris Hani Baragwanath (Bara), in South Africa’s largest township, Soweto.

The series walks in the shoes of various doctors, nurses and staff who work tirelessly, and with little reward, to save human lives under difficult circumstances. The hospital acts as a microcosm for many of the social problems that South Africa is grappling with today. The series was broadcast on Al Jazeera English in 2009 and again in 2010.

Left Hand Films believes that what it has filmed at Bara, and the stories the series portrays, is a fair reflection of what is going on at the hospital as well as in South Africa in general.

In particular, Left Hand Films looks at social violence and trauma (seen in Episode 1, 24 hours of Trauma), as well as the burden that HIV and AIDS has placed upon the healthcare system countrywide (Episodes 2, Overload, 3 From the Cradle to the Grave and 7 Pandemic). This eight-part series also highlights the warmth, compassion and tireless efforts of the staff at the hospital.

The company would like to extend its gratitude to both the staff and patients at Bara who trusted Left Hand Films to tell their various stories. The experience was an extraordinarily humbling one. During the shoot, the crew was touched on a daily basis by unsolicited acts of kindness by a nurse or by a member of the public who allowed Left Hand Films to document a normally private and intimate moment with his/her doctor.

Trailer & Crew

Commissioning Editor - Mike Dillon, Head of Current Affairs, Al Jazeera English
Directors/Producers - Lisa Henry and Shareen Anderson
Director of Photography - Ian Miller
Sound - Zeblon Ngobese, Lebo Mawashwa, Sam Masemene
Offline Editors - Taku Kaskela and Karyn Bosch
Opening Title Sequence and Graphics - Clint Corden, Velvet Films
Online Editor - Bertus Kirsten, Barefoot Productions
Audio Post Engineer - Janno Muller, On Key Sound
Music Supervisor: Taku Kaskela
Music - Music Box
Post Production Assistants - Palesa Sehlako, Ivy Sithole, Fallon Thompson, Mishumo Mathivha

The staff and patients at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital


  • “Screened repeatedly all over the globe, talented local director Lisa Henry and her US-trained partner
    Shareen Anderson’s eight-part,haunting portrait of suffering humanity and courageous professionalism in a hopelessly under-resourced hospital…” – The Star

  • “For a directorial debut, Saving Soweto is an excellent piece of work by Henry and Anderson, a compilation of rare footage the likes of which has not been seen before.” – The Sunday Independent

  • “A dramatic documentary about the horrors of Soweto’s Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital has spurred overseas doctors to offer their assistance to the hospital.” – The Times

  • “This series of doccies proves that you don’t need bells and whistles and award-winning cinematography to capture an audience’s attention. All you need is good subject matter and a camera to roll and capture all the drama that happens in the course of any day.” –
    News 24

  • “It is a cry to the government and all interested parties to give serious attention to the health system. Though the documentary focuses on the happenings at Bara, that hospital is only a microcosm of a national crisis in the greater health delivery system.” – Tonight

  • “A stab wound patient arrives at the hospital a full 10 hours after his injury occurred because the ambulance was tied up with other cases, and is told to find his own way to the x-ray department, a five-minute walk from the trauma unit. Patients often lose their way or simply disappear. ” – IOL

  • “In an eight-part documentary series, Al Jazeera news network is this week showing the world how ailing our health system is.” – Sowetan

Synopsis Guide


Cameras follow Irish doctor, Patrick MacGoey and intern Kaajal Pharboo through their 24-hour month-end shift in Bara’s overburdened Trauma Unit, where stabbings, rape and motor vehicle accident victims are standard fare.


Medical Admission Ward 20 deals with all of Soweto’s non-surgical medical emergencies. Doctors are constantly overwhelmed by the numbers of patients seeking help and in this ward, 50% to 60% of deaths are due to AIDS-related illnesses.


Three out of ten pregnant women have HIV in South Africa today. The Maternity Unit at Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital delivers about 70 babies a day, many born with the disease and who come into the world with no say in their care or management of the disease.


Eye doctors at Bara’s St John’s Eye Clinic can treat up to a few hundred people a day. People can expect to wait most of the day in the queue to see a doctor. The waiting list for cataract surgery is currently two years.


Dr Adelin Muganza is head of Bara’s Burn Unit. Mostly poverty related, accidental burns constitute two thirds of all his admissions; suicide attempts about 5% and the rest are due to assault. In the Trauma Unit, Dr Patrick MacGoey tries to save the life of a seven-year-old girl, knocked down outside her home by an unlicensed driver.


South Africa struggles with massive organ shortages urgently needed for patients awaiting transplant. At Bara, Organ Donor Co-ordinator Sister Matsie Pooe works hard to convince those in her community to defy their cultural beliefs and become donors.


About 900 South Africans are dying a day from AIDS-related illnesses. Getting people to admit they have the disease and onto treatment is a major stumbling block in the management of the continent-wide pandemic.


A touching story from Bara’s ICU about the hospital’s longest running patient, Peter Bouhail, ill with a severe case Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The story of his rehabilitation and friendship with the nurses is heart-warming.

Saving Soweto takes Bronze at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards

Film-makers Lisa Henry and Shareen Anderson are proud to announce that their documentary series, Saving Soweto, produced for Al Jazeera English, received a Bronze medal at the New York Festivals International Television and Film Awards, held in New York on 3rd of May.

To visit the New York Festivals website, click on the link below:,3

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