Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Living In Emergency

Recently I discussed the documentary Under our Skin. This documentary about Lyme Disease and American medicine, while featuring interviews and stories of patients and doctors, has the central character of a controversial disease.

Where Under our Skin is about a disease, the documentary Living in Emergency is about doctors.

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders, has such a perfect title. The documentary shows a selection of doctors who go on mission with the non-profit organization Médecins Sans Frontières. Founded in 1971, this Nobel Peace Prize winning organization provides medical care in war torn countries all around the world.

The doctors in this film come from a variety of countries, some are well seasoned and used to working with MSF, while others are experiencing this for the first time.

While the organization has doctors in various places in the world, this film focuses on doctors in the African counties of Liberia and Congo as both these countries are in the midst of their own horrific wars.

Where the telegraph compared Living In Emergency as a cross between Gregory House and Hawkeye Piere of M*A*S*H...I personally found this story to be more similar to that our say...Scrubs.

No, Zach Braff doesn't make an appearance, but rather in the early seasons of the television show these newbies are experiencing medicine in a whole new way, they are loosing sleep, getting stressed, and having to deal with harsh realities of death and disease without the glamour they may have dreamed of.

Living in Emergency, is just that...only more real, more on the edge, and well...not quite as funny.

The style of this documentary is very voyeuristic. Mark N. Hopkin's style as a director of this film is raw and unrefined. As a viewer, you watch this film as though you are spying on something going on, you are literally seeing these doctors squeezed into new circumstances moment after moment.

Many documentaries are crafted in away to generate an emotion or calculated response. That was not this film. It would seem this film's primary purpose is to show what it is truly like to be a doctor with this organization.

These doctors are not all portrayed as model heroes, the way these doctors exhibit and release there stress sometimes captures them in their own vulnerabilities. These doctors often voice frustration with the organization, other NGOs, and each other.

There in lies the charm of this film. Watching it opens up discussion. Watching it helps you think about things outside of the realm of our own isolation. Watching it challenges our thoughts on aid, service, and most importantly humanity.

Opportunity to See This Film with Live Panel Discussion: December 14, 2009

This film, one of the 15 films that has been short listed for an Academy Award for best picture and many people will have the unique opportunity to watch this film in theaters this upcoming Monday December 14.

On the evening of December 14, over 400 movie theaters will show this film followed by a live panel discussion lead by Elizabeth Vargas of ABC's 20/20. The panel discussion will feature doctors who appear in the film along with the director.

To see theaters where the film is being shown and to buy tickets to this unique one night event you can go to the Fathom website.


PTB said...

I am looking forward to watching the documentary on Monday!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated this film and thought it did an excellent job protraying the realities of what it is like to be a physician or care provider overseas, with limited medical resources.

A western physician has technology and tools at their disposal during their training, and to then go to a 3rd world country and try to provide the same type of care is overwhelming with the absence of CT scanners, MRI, a stocked pharmacy, etc. This is the aspect that stood out the most to me. I believe one of the physicians in the film said something to the affect that his Grandfather who was a physician would have been better prepared to practice medicine in the 3rd world than he is.

Daniel said...

You know I never thought of "Scrubs" but you're right about the young doctors in the film here. Also, I like your point about how open and honest the doctors are about all of their struggles, even blaming MSF for some of them. Pretty impressive of MSF to support this film, even when they are called out in it.

HMS said...

Look forward to watching the film.