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 the refugee medical clinic, lies an acute expression of our helplessness in this ever-escalating crisis, revealing modern, intimate layers of the long, asymmetrical relationship between Africa and the West.
We find ourselves in the walk-in healthcare centre at the Avicenne Hospital in Bobigny, close to the Parisian suburbs, and that’s the world that we see paraded before our eyes, a world of suffering, a world of migrants with physical and psychological injuries intensified by their journeys to France and the extreme precariousness of their daily lives. Within the confined microcosm of a single room, a general practitioner, aided by a psychiatrist, tries, under no illusion, to repair 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’s eternal epigraph puts its finger on a key challenge for 'On Call': in the stream of patients visiting the care service for new immigrants, the collective dimension never eclipses the individual, the sociological view never erases our heartfelt recognition of a person who returns months later, even skinnier or instead plumped up. We are in the service of the free medical center at Avicenne Hospital in Bobigny. How are these beaten, starving, traumatized people to be helped using medicine’s inadequate means? Over time, tensions appear between Dr. Geeraert and his administration, as his medical certificates affect the administrative procedure and access to free care. By choosing to stay in the confines of the surgery, Alice Diop underlines the doctors’ ability to listen and their lucidity as to the limits of their action. In doing so, she accentuates the presence of the outside world, the vast off-screen world of poverty and violence that – also – makes up our society.
97 minutes, in French and English with English subtitles.