"You have to ask yourself, what is our limit?" says Dr. Chiara Lepora in Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders. The monday night screening and live broadcast from Skirball Center for the Performing Arts on the NYU campus included a post discussion which included two doctors from the film, Dr. Tom Krueger and Christopher Brasher as well as Doctors Without Borders Executive Director of the U.S. section, Sophie Delaunay, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, the minister of health and welfare, Republic of Liberia and journalist and author Sebastian Junger. The panel was moderated by Elizabeth Vargas. (Dr. Chiara Lepora pictured above)
This film itself is was an inside look at four doctors and their experiences during their missions in both the Congo and the Republic of Liberia. According to their website, a mission with Doctors Without Borders requires a minimum commitment of 6 continuous months and many have a 9 to 12 month duration. The staff works tirelessly in countries going through trauma due to conflict and/or natural disasters among other equally dramatic scenarios. Much of the staff is also made up of the local community. Each doctor chronicled in Living in Emergency must adapt to minimal resources, performing daily miracles as well as daily disappointments and both are intensely beyond what most westerners can fathom and partly because of that the documentary becomes about humanity and as Sebastian Junger said in the post discussion, what the film brings to audiences that would otherwise have no exposure to a world in peril like this, are these stories that turn 30,000 war victims into one little injured girl who just lost her parents in rapid gunshot fire. Much like Nicholas Kristof’s theory on compassion (see previous blogs). It's true and it brings me back to what Dr. Lepora said in the film, What is our limit? She is of course referring to what the doctors on a mission go through but as an audience I think we have to ask ourselves the same question in a bit of a different context. What is our limit? Can we watch these scenes that are glimpses into a personal story of horror and not do anything about it at all? If you ask me, this time of year that's full of holidays and gift giving is a good opportunity to ask ourselves these kinds of questions.
Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders is one of 15 films in the Documentary Feature category that will advance in the voting process for the 82nd Academy Awards®. If you missed Monday night's event, it will have its run theatrically too and although some of the footage is disturbing, it should. It's supposed to wake us up and call us to action.