Monday, 18 May 2020

Movie review: The African Doctor, dir Julien Rambaldi (2016)

Titled ‘Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont’ in France, where it originated, this is a very French film though the music, in places, is like the soundtrack of a Disney movie. Based on true events, the story intelligently addresses issues associated with globalisation in post-colonial times.

In 1975’s France a doctor named Seyolo Zantoko (Marc Zinga) from what was then known as Zaire (now, the Democratic Republic of Congo) graduates from university and, at the afterparty in a city pub, he gets to talking with a small-town mayor (Jean-Benoît Ugeux) who is visiting Paris. The mayor’s from a town near the capital and the two chat about the possibility of working there. The mayor, according to Seyolo’s friends, comes to the afterparty every year because he has had trouble finding a doctor who will move to his corner of the world.

Seyolo agrees to relocate to Marly-Gomont and bring his family with him. He calls his wife Anne (Aïssa Maïga), who is in Kinshasa, and she and the rest of the extended family think it’s Paris the family will move to. They all celebrate while Seyolo tries to tell them that it’s “near” Paris and not Paris itself. But in vain. The family of four arrives – Sivi (Médina Diarra at about 12 years old) and Kamini (Bayron Lebli at about eight years old) are of course with their parents – and it’s raining. The mayor didn’t bring his car to meet the bus, so they all get wet.

Anna is angry about the town’s diminutive size but worse is to come as the villagers shun the new arrivals, and refuse to use Seyolo’s medical clinic, preferring to drive to a nearby town and use the doctor there. Sivi also has unrealised dreams. She wants to become a soccer player but her father says the sport is for idiots. He won’t let the kids watch TV either. The family manages discord and occasionally friends visit – migrants who live in Brussels, in the nearby nation of Belgium – to create a more wholesome kind of community for the Zantoko family to enjoy.

Beginning with a farmer named Jean (Rufus), Seyolo starts to win over the townspeople but some of them make trouble for him and Anna. The forces of good and the forces of evil are ranged against each other. Who will win? 

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