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The African Doctor

May 29, 2020

The African Doctor (2016)
Director: Julien Rambaldi
Actors: Marc Zinga, Aïssa Maïga, Médina Diarra

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Synopsis: A newly qualified African doctor, Seyolo Zantoko (Marc Zinga), decides to accept a posting in the isolated rural community of Marly-Gomont in the north of France. The provincialism and insularity of a large proportion of the townsfolk lead to a challenging period of acclimatisation for Seyolo and his family.

Review: Although the actual message behind this light comedy is hard to quibble with – a provincial French community learns tolerance through the general bonhomie and saintliness of an African doctor who comes to work there – the twee generic treatment dilutes the import of that moral.

A riff on the classic French comedy of manners genre – The One Hundred Foot Journey (admittedly Anglo-American made) and The Student and Mister Henri are two that immediately spring to mind – the soapy feel and utter predictability of the storytelling cogs strip the narrative of any real force. We’re clearly in the territory of the fish-out-of-water feelgood template from the outset, and even the film’s attempts at comedy are forced and timid – the numerous car jokes feel tired and a touch in poor taste considering the ultimate end-destination for the real life Dr Zantoko. In fact, the framing device that this was a true story, and the appearance of the actual son of Dr Zantoko in the film’s coda, perhaps points the direction towards what would have been a more fruitful way of outing the theoretically interesting subject matter: documentary. (May 2020)

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