“It was a pretty major shock when I got here,” says Dr. Tom Krueger. “You can’t describe the smells, the heat on your body, the sweat down your back, the smell of the pus that hits your nose… the smell of your own panic. You’re not sure what to do. You can’t share that stuff.” And yet, Mark Hopkins’ superb documentary does exactly that: it shares the horrific and impossible experiences of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), who travel from crisis to crisis in order to provide temporary aid, to save some lives, and leave — before an infrastructure or system is put into place. In vivid glimpses of diagnoses and surgeries, the film illustrates the “tough choices” facing doctors in dire conditions. In shot after shot, roads are muddy, rooms are small, and faces are strained. Observing that doctors volunteer for any number of reasons, some noble and some less so, Australian anesthetist Chris Brasher says, “I think some people do it to run away from where they’re from.” He smiles, sort of, when he adds, “As far as I was looking to make myself homeless, I think I’ve succeeded.” The film doesn’t smooth over what goes wrong and leaves unresolved the stories of its four primary subjects, all doctors. Such messy narrative structure is to the point, exemplifying the disorder and difficulty of each day, briefly and brilliantly. The DVD is available from First Run Features on 21 June.
See PopMatters‘ review.