This instructive and sincerely intentioned documentary examines the vital work carried out by the gung-ho (and occasionally jaded) field doctors working for the Médecins Sans Frontières aid agency. Offering an intimate window on their punishing day-to-day travails, the film somewhat haphazardly divides its screen time between the agency headquarters in Paris, a dangerously underfunded clinic in a Congolese backwoods, and a hellish hospital in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Ample close-up shots of gory, makeshift operations and frequently aired dismay at the lack of political infrastructure reveal what a tough profession these people have chosen – to the point that you think this film might actually dissuade budding humanitarians from signing up. And though it’s perhaps churlish to pick holes in such a well-meaning project, you do feel that director Mark Hopkins has made a film about a broad subject rather than a specific story. As such, the structure can feel a little piecemeal, and the constant switching back and forth across territories means you never really get under the skin of his heroic subjects.
Friday March 11 2011
Mark N Hopkins