Face to face with the worst human crises

We vicariously experience the horrors of epidemics, droughts and terror attacks, that have become endemic in today’s world, through the media every day. But the challenge of providing emergency medical aid in such situations and such parts of the world often goes unhighlighted and removed from the public eye.  
     
Recently, the international NGO ‘Doctors Without Borders,’ better known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), provided Delhiites a peek into their world through an enlightening four-day film festival.

MSF screened four films which explained the ‘hows and whys’ of the organisation’s work – emergency medical relief, campaigns for access to essential medicine and upholding its humanitarian principles in the face of threats and death.
 
The festival was held at Alliance Française de Delhi (AFD) and received a good response, especially from young filmmakers and those interested in public healthcare, in the city.

Speaking on the first-of-its kind collaborative effort, Jean-Philippe Bottin, director, Alliance Française de Delhi, said, “Being a humanist organisation, it is but normal that we are collaborating with MSF for this festival, showcasing their efforts in the interest of mankind. I hope that this festival will be a recurring event.”

Farhat Mantoo, acting general director, MSF India, said, “The festival offers a unique opportunity to spread awareness about health issues which are present in contemporary India, but yet escape our attention because of other life priorities. We are optimistic that these films will be a learning lesson for many.”

The festival included four excellent award-winning films shot in different regions and exploring different circumstances of medical aid in disaster areas. Access to the Danger Zone, which opened the fest, looked at the strategies MSF uses to save lives in the worst war zo­n­es, including Afghanistan, Somalia and eastern Democ­ratic Republic of Congo. It is directed by Peter Casaer and narrated by Daniel Day-Lew­is.

The Invisibles, produced by Javier Bardem, spoke of displaced people in Colombia, child soldiers in Uganda and victims of Chagas disease, Sleeping Sickness and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. All of these stories belong to some of the forgotten crises where MSF works permanently.

MSF (Un)Limited recounted moving accounts of humanitarian calamities MSF has worked in since its foundation in 1971. It uses original footage with commentary by the MSF staff. They are shown wrestling with their consciences, struggling with emotional involvement and fighting dangers to their personal security.

Fire in the Blood, which was nominated at the Sundance film festival, lastly, narrated how western pharmaceutical companies and governments aggressively blocked low-cost AIDS drugs to countries in Africa and the global south in the years after 1996, causing ten million or more unnecessary deaths.

Shot on four continents and including contributions from global figures such as Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu and Joseph Stiglitz, this was a never-before-told true story of the remarkable coalition which came together to stop ‘The Crime of the Century’ and saved millions of lives in the process.

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