________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 6. . . . November 15, 2002

cover A Drop in the Ocean.

Lise Éthier (Director). Yves Bisaillon (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
49 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9101 048.

Grades 11 and up /Ages 16 and up.

Review by Helen Norrie.

**1/2 /4

A Drop in the Ocean is the story of one woman's experience serving with Doctors Without Borders (Medecins sans frontiers), the humanitarian medical aid agency. Dr.Claudette Picard came from a rural area of Quebec whose quiet pastoral landscapes contrast starkly in the video with the arid fields and crowded hospitals in which she serves with the aid agency.

     Dr. Picard served in Liberia, Zaire and Afghanistan, attempting to alleviate suffering and cure disease under very difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions. Besides following Claudette on her daily rounds for several days, the film tries to explore her motivation: what causes her to want to leave a secure practice and a pleasant life in Canada for the problems, frustrations and danger of war-torn countries.

     The film was originally produced in French, and most of the video has English subtitles. (There are some sections where Dr. Picard speaks English to her patients). Perhaps this is one reason that the action seems very slow and that we are not always sure what Dr. Picard is thinking. One of the best portions of the film occurs near the end where she returns to Canada and discusses with colleagues in Doctors Without Borders how she no longer feels content to live and work in Canada after facing the challenges and excitement of working in Liberia. As a result, we are told, she soon returned to overseas work.

     Although this film is a good introduction to the work of Doctors Without Borders, it fails to capture the urgency of their mission. While it states that all filming had to be done under military supervision, for instance, we are never aware of any military presence, and the work, in fact, seems to proceed at a rather casual pace. As with all National Film Board films, photography is excellent. Some of the most arresting shots, however, are of ice flows and corn fields in Dr. Picard's native area of Quebec.

     This video might be helpful to use with students considering a career in medicine who are also interested in humanitarian aid work. However, it will not have much appeal to the general public, especially in its English version.

Recommended with reservations.

Helen Norrie writes a monthly children's book column for the book pages of the Winnipeg Free Press.


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