"Modern Combat Medicine"
In a world starved for heroes, “Living In Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders” is a welcome portrait of people serving selflessly to help others in dire need around the world. Set in the war-torn Congo and post-war Liberia, this is a picture of four dedicated medical specialists.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, is an international medical humanitarian organizations created in France in 1971. They provide vital medical care to over 60 countries, and, on any given day, over 27,000 professionals and committed individuals are doing just that around the globe. The typical rotation lasts six months. Some re-apply; some can’t bear to do a second tour.
LIVING IN EMERGENCY follows four doctors: two new recruits, and two experienced doctors. The audience experiences the exhaustion, the frustration, the desperation of trying to save lives with a great deal less in far worse conditions than most of their counterparts who are back home. Dr. Chris Brasher has been in the midst of the conflict a long time, and he’s worn out. He’s ready to go home. Dr. Kiara Lepora recognizes the challenge of managing 40 patients in an environment that would be challenging just to survive. Dr. Tom Kreuger, the grandson of a surgeon, leaves his practice of 20 years in the U.S. to help victims across the world, but he notices, “If you’re paralyzed by making bad decisions, you can’t do this job.” Dr. Davinder Gill, a young doctor from Australia, is overwhelmed and seems, in a turn from Conrad’s story “The Heart of Darkness,” to be going slowly mad. They all know that they’re helping to stop suffering, and that, in itself, is rewarding, but will that be enough?
Mark Hopkins makes his directorial debut with LIVING IN EMERGENCY, and he shows a sensitive hand. With a polished approach, Hopkins makes a passionate plea to show the heroic commitment of these dedicated doctors. Although there are important moments that show the politics of MSF, which slow the story down, they are still a critical part of what keeps this organization running. Director of Photography Sebastian Ischer shows the gritty desperation of the situation in Congo and Liberia. Working with editors Bob Eisenhardt and Douglas Rossini, Ischer and Hopkins insert some war footage to give a sense of immediacy and urgency; these are problems that are happening now. The doctors are real, and the movie’s portrait is not always flattering, but it’s honest.
LIVING IN EMERGENCY is tainted by a humanist worldview with romantic sentiments. There is a brief sequence of some of the local inhabitants in a Christian church, singing ‘hallelujah.’ What they are doing is noble, but sometimes it’s for their own ego. As Dr. Kreuger states, “This is a very selfish thing. Somehow, fixing other people seems to fix yourself.” There is copious smoking and drinking, with reference by Dr. Lepora to having sexual relations often. Naturally, in the given environment, there is a certain amount of nudity of patients, including a woman with a distended bowel being pushed back into her abdomen and several partially clad mothers. There are shots of a French doctor on a beach in a bikini.
Please note that this is the grizzlier view of “E.R.” There are disturbing images of gunshot wounds, bodies suffering from bacterial infections, and a foot being amputated, and these are graphic. There is also footage of soldiers firing machine guns and burning down villages.
Admittedly, the movie has a pagan and sometimes a Romantic worldview, but much of the sentiment is about doing something for someone else who is unable to do it for themselves. These are individuals who are risking their lives and safety to help others, and that’s a lesson we could all learn from.
(PaPa, Ro, C, B, L, VVV, S, NN, A, D, M) Strong, somewhat mixed pagan worldview with undertones of Romanticism and some Christian, moral sentiments; one profanity and several obscenities, including six “f” words; very strong violence includes wartime violence and graphic wounds of victims, including gunshot wounds, bodies suffering from bacterial infections and a foot being amputated; no sex scenes but one person is said to sleep around a lot; naturalistic depictions of female nudity in third world wartime situation; drinking of beer and liquor; heavy smoking; and, some egotism.
In a world starved for heroes, LIVING IN EMERGENCY: STORIES OF DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS is a welcome portrait of people serving selflessly to help others in need around the world. However, it has some graphic hospital scenes and some strong foul language. The documentary focuses on four doctors working for Doctors Without Borders. Viewers experience their exhaustion, frustration and desperation of trying to save lives in terrible circumstances. The doctors know they’re helping to stop suffering, and that is rewarding, but is it enough?
Mark Hopkins makes his directorial debut with LIVING IN EMERGENCY, and he shows a sensitive hand. The doctors are real, and movie’s portrait of them is not always flattering, but it’s honest. The documentary shows the doctors helping injured, sick people, but it’s tainted by a mixed pagan worldview with Romantic sentiments and brief Christian content. For example, there is copious smoking and drinking, and some strong foul language. LIVING IN EMERGENCY is the grizzly side of television’s E.R. There are disturbing, graphic images of gunshot wounds, bacterial infections, and a foot being amputated. So, extreme caution is warranted. For reviews of other movies, please visit Movieguide.org.