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The Heart of Nuba Represents Humanity at Its Best Through Dr. Tom Catena


The Heart of Nuba

The Heart of Nuba is a humanitarian heart-based documentary directed and produced by Kenneth A. Carlson. Carlson is a non-fiction filmmaker mostly known for his work on Go Tigers! This documentary focuses on the selfless service of Dr. Tom Catena and the essence of the Nuba people. The Nuba Mountains are located in South Kordofan, Sudan, and is regarded as one of the most isolated locations in the world, thus being a problematic destination for travel and one of the utmost challenging places to survive due to the harsh living conditions from aerial assaults by dictator Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir.

The Heart of Nuba
Dr. Tom Catena and his patients. Photo Courtesy of Kenneth A. Carlson.


Dr. Tom Catena serves at Mother of Mercy Hospital located in the Nuba Mountains. He has lived in the region for over 10 years, served in Africa for more than 20 years, is the only surgeon within a 200-mile radius, treats as many as 435 patients a day, cares for a population of around 1 million people, performs some of the most demanding surgeries with limited resources, works 365 days/year, and tirelessly gives his heart to the Nuba people, believing what he considers is God’s work. The documentarian added, “He has no running water. Electricity is from batteries which run out all the time. He’s got the threat of the Khartoum government bombing the village. He could be living the cush life here in the United States; he could be wealthy, safe, but he chooses to do this work.”

Documentary filmmaking is about discovery and shaping the story. The director explained, “I went out thinking I had a film about a conflict and my narrative was going to be Dr. Tom Catena, but what ended up happening is I didn’t know how the film was going to end. Tom was very insistent that this had to be about the Nuba people.”

Every documentary has an intended message attached. “I want to give a voice to the voiceless there and I want to show that you can make a difference. Dr. Tom Catena is providing not only care for these people, but he’s providing hope and that hope transcends,” accentuated Carlson.

This documentary not only demonstrates good-nature and awareness, but has actually resulted in powerful real-world change. The filmmaker illuminated, “Because we made this film and got it into the hands of the former majority leader of parliament, Mahdi Ibrahim, he made it happen for it to be handed to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Bashir responded with a cease fire declaration. This film has saved lives. We achieved a tipping point. Right now, people are not living in foxholes because we forced this issue, got it in front of this dictator, and it has made a huge difference.”

The Heart of Nuba
Dr. Tom Catena (Left) and director Kenneth A. Carlson (Right). Photo Courtesy of Kenneth A. Carlson.

We live in the world of Marvel comic heroes which is a great suspension of reality. But the idea that someone is actually out there doing this, doing such a courageous, selfless, brave thing is unique in this day and age. Tom Catena stays. He is our story and to fill envelopes or sandbags as a volunteer and do something – it’s amiable, it’s great,” expressed Carlson. “I want people to take away from this that we all have a little bit of Dr. Tom Catena in us. We just need to exercise it.”

The Heart of Nuba is a heartrending documentary set to release in New York on April 6, 2018 followed by a limited theatrical release on April 13, 2018.

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