On Call (La Permanence)
Director Alice Diop spent a year filming consultations at a walk-in service for asylum seekers at Avicenne Hospital in France, with the aim of drawing attention to the difficulties faced by its many struggling patients, and its limited staff. The film is shot in a very raw, bare and claustrophobic way, with no typical documentary voice-over, interviews, soundtrack or other added content to make it visually engaging; instead, in a respectful and poignantly stripped-back way, it captures the real bleakness of the hospital’s tiny, cramped doctor’s office, alongside the enormity of the difficulties it faces every day.
Using largely close-in static shots, On Call (La Permanence) introduces a number of different men and women who have arrived seeking help or treatment from general practitioner Jean-Pierre Geeraert and his team. For most of them, their immigration status is “unresolved”, which means that they are currently denied access to normal medical services and benefits, despite being in urgent need of care. They are presented with a constant struggle to somehow get hold of the right papers and the right people, before their needs can be dealt with properly. Some have had their horrendous injuries inflicted by people back home, and have been forced to flee to France. On Call’s very honest method of filming gives a voice to these people, allowing their different personalities to shine through, and their harrowing stories to be told in a very eye-opening and emotional way.
The film highlights today’s alarming refugee crisis and the many difficulties immigrants currently face. Many of them suffer from severe depression, anxiety and trauma, as well as a multitude of other physical health problems and financial issues. Some must also cope with homelessness, starvation and social alienation on top of everything else. Though Jean-Pierre Geeraert and his staff do a very admirable job of handling the mounting issues in each consultation, it becomes clear very quickly that a lack of resources and funding, language barriers, never-ending legal obstacles and staff limitations have become a serious problem that needs addressing on a larger scale. On Call (La Permanence) represents a complex human dilemma that warrants more awareness, and serves as a a difficult but important reminder of the widespread poverty and misery that many face behind the scenes of our every-day “normal” lives.
On Call (La Permanence) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for On Call (La Permanence) here: