Dir:Pablo Diaz Crutzen, Stijn Deconinck and Robin Smit | Doc, Belgium
I Am Not a Hero offers a Belgian perspective on the Covid19 Crisis and a serene view of fighting the disease from the experience of the medical staff at the Belgian Centre of Excellence of the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels.
Filmmakers Pablo Diaz Crutzen, Stijn Deconinck and Robin Smit explore the pandemic from the March 2019 lockdown until the situation was well under control in late May. Probably not the most popular release at London’s Raindance Film Festival this November, the film nevertheless offers a contrast of sorts given the lessons learnt as the UK and other major European countries face some kind of renewed lockdown this Autumn.
Not surprisingly Belgium experienced the same issues as Britain, and one of the nurses erupts in total rage with her comments intended for the Belgian government: “Where are the masks and equipments they promised? How can we work in these conditions? Why are the aprons now so thin?” Yep, sounds familiar.
We witness a nurse speaking to the family of a very sick patient who has spent most of her treatment lying face down – hence the marks on her face – the situation looks optimistic, but it’s still early days. Another nurse shares a grim experience of having to deal with the body bag of a patient who died alone without their family – or anyone – for comfort.
Belgium is rather like Britain where hospitals are staffed by multicultural nurses and doctors who nevertheless all get on like a house on fire. And the atmosphere is for the most part cheerful if soberly so. The main commentator here is a ‘bubbly’ Moroccan nurse Meryem – who describes how she copes with having a growing family to look after, and the need to spend a few days with them now and again to keep everyone happy. There is also a pleasant consultant called Fabio who comments encouragingly. “Most of the patients eventually pull though” Those we do see (although faces are hidden) are white, middle-aged men.. But there is also an in-depth chat with a plump, white nurse who describes her symptoms as a dry cough, loss of smell, and she undergoes a really painful nasal swab.
Fabio does allow the family of a dying patient to visit in the final hours of life. And this is particularly difficult to watch as Fabio organises another visit for a man who will certainly die that night. He has been in the hospital for a month and the shock of his deterioration is clearly hard to accept for his nearest and dearest. Belgium is one of the few countries that have allowed these humane visits.
Filmed on the widescreen as the camera hovers over the hospital and impersonal close-ups on the ward and in the morgue, I Am Not a Hero is always respectfully – the focus is a random hand or the fleeting glance of a wheelchair going into an ambulance ensures discretion. As we leave Fabio and his team, the worst of the crisis is over with a jubilant patient leaving the ward and later arriving home, a little shaky but walking on air.
Maryam feels she has enforced her commitment to her profession and is looking forward to going back to ‘normal’. Sadly that ‘normal’ time is still to come as we face the Winter with our unwelcome visitor from China. MT
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL | 2020