Monday, December 14, 2009

Doctors Without Borders

Tonight I went to a local showing of the Doctors Without Borders (in French, MSF) documentary "Living in Emergency" that profiled four MSF doctors on missions in two countries, Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. It's an outstanding film, and I'm glad to have caught the showing, as it was being simultaneous broadcast tonight in 450 theaters nationwide and there was a panel discussion afterwards with some of the doctors and other relevant people.

The movie wasn't at all what I thought it would be. It wasn't uplifting, really, and it had very little resolution. (In fact, I'm grateful the excellent panel discussion provided some of the resolution I personally needed.) I'm glad I saw it, but it was difficult to watch. I'm a very, very sensitive person - oversensitive, for sure - and I was a mess for most of it. It's overwhelming in so many ways. Extreme human suffering is hard to watch and assimilate, and this showed the four doctors struggling in the most desperate of circumstances. In fact, one doctor and one seasoned war correspondent both said the mission to Liberia (that occurred during filming) was the last they were able to participate in. It was painful to watch all four doctors experience what on some level were definitely existential crises with no easy answers. But it was very worth seeing, and at the very minimum as humans we probably owe each other just listening to each others stories, even if they're hard. Especially if they're hard. The film should be required viewing.

It affected me in lots of ways but two specific ones I can identify: I think since having nephews I find it even more painful, if possible, to see children suffering. It's unbearable and impossible not to react. I saw their faces in the faces of the children in the movie. And also it makes me think about doing something more meaningful with my life. Last year at this time I was going through the multi-month process of applying for the Peace Corps, and was set to have my interview, the final step in the process, the week following my job loss last February. I didn't blog about it because it was so crazy and personal that I wanted to keep the peripheral noise to a minimum, and I hadn't decided whether or not I would have gone had I been accepted. However, I've always felt that I would do something like that at some point in my life. I was unable to watch the movie tonight without thinking about it. Emotional night.

Information about the documentary from the MSF website here and a very accurate review here. Highly recommended.


  1. THANK you for sharing!
    I'm going to post about this tomorrow on my blog.
    People need KNOW what's going on 'out there'.

  2. Damn, now I REALLY wish I had gone to see that. I just couldn't find anyone with a car who was interested in driving me to the suburbs last night. I know, lame excuse.

    I'm seriously considering applying for MSF this year. Maybe we should sign up together?

  3. You seriously do the coolest stuff. I love reading about it. If we lived closer I would hope you'd take me to some of this stuff.

  4. Along with, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is my favorite charity, and I've blogged about their amazing humanitarian efforts several times. I hope that this movie will give them a lot of exposure so they can raise more money to continue their much-needed work.

    Sadly, the movie will probably never come to my small community, so I'll have to wait for a DVD release. Your review has me confident it will be worth the wait!

  5. I've had a few friends (one of whom is in the PC as I type this) in addition to my step father (he was in South Africa during apartheid. WOWZA) who have done the PeaceCorps thang. I was too skeered, so I just did AmeriCorps!

    ANYHOO, if you want their perspectives on it, hollah. I've heard very mixed reviews, particularly from women. Yet, life changing. I also have a friend who went to Africa and volunteered for a 3 week stint. She is now starting a non-profit to help the community she served. Again, life changing! ANYHOO...

  6. It had to be hard. I don't do well with that sort of thing. I've been to Honduras way back in the jungle and it's amazing how some of us on this planet live.