On Call (La permanence)
- *Louis Marcorelles Award* - Cinema du Réel
- London International Film Festival
- Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
- DocAviv International Film Festival
At the heart of French-Senegalese filmmaker Alice Diop's unflinching, 'fly-on-the-wall' exposé of a refugee medical clinic, lies an acute expression of our inadequacies in managing an ever-escalating crisis.
The walk-in healthcare center at the Avicenne Hospital in Bobigny, close to the Parisian suburbs, is a world of migrants with a wide range of physical and psychological injuries. Their cumulative suffering has been intensified by their journeys to France, and by the extreme precariousness of their daily lives. Within the confined microcosm of a single room, a general practitioner, aided by a psychiatrist, tries to repair their bodies and minds.
“They spoke to me of people, and of humanity. But I've never seen people or humanity. I've seen various people, astonishingly dissimilar, each separated from the next by an unpeopled space.” - Fernando Pessoa
Pessoa’s epigraph puts its finger on a key challenge for the hospital, and for the film. In the stream of patients visiting the care service for migrants, attention must be paid to the individual. The heartfelt recognition of a person who returns months later, looking skinnier or more stressed, cannot be overshadowed by the sociological view. And whether these traumatized, starving, broken people can be helped using the modest means of a free medical center remains to be seen. Nevertheless, "attention must be paid".
In choosing to stay in the confines of the center, On Call underlines the doctors’ efforts and abilities to listen and attempt to understand. This focus accentuates the presence of the outside world, the vast off-screen world of poverty and violence that makes up society.
97 minutes, in French and English with English subtitles.