THIS SCREENING IS PART OF THE JUSTICE FORUM SERIES AND WILL INCLUDE A POST-FILM DISCUSSION.
For two years, Belgian director Jérôme le Maire followed the members of a surgical unit at one of Paris’ biggest hospitals. The result is gripping and infuriating, tragic and ridiculous. It’s like ER meets The Office, as directed by D. A. Pennebaker.
The film is a hospital soap opera in the ER vein — with the requisite surgeries, and life-saving heroics, as well as some major drama. As tensions rise due to limited resources, staff members are pushed to the breaking point, and take out their frustrations on one another. In one particularly poignant scene, a black nurse simply refuses to work with one surgeon whose arrogance and anger betray his racism.
The dramatic scenes of medical action are intercut, The Office- style, with farcical and interminable management meetings where the representatives of front line workers try and impress upon administrators the need for radical changes — only to be pawned off on outside consultants whose audit shows just how much harder everyone could be working if they introduced “efficiencies.” You don’t need to be a health care worker to recognize this particular species of MBA ‘right- sizer.’ Anyone who has the Kafkaesque experience of deciphering the jargon of management consultants only to find it means layoffs and cuts will find Burning Out all too familiar.
Le Maire’s access is total, and the frank depiction of the job and its impact on the people doing it is unblinking. But for all its observational specificity, the story is sadly not unique. Bookending the film with a beautiful aerial shot of Paris, le Maire reminds us that this is just one unit at one hospital in one overworked healthcare system in one affluent and enlightened country. Canada is also full of health care professionals in similar stages of burning out. -JC