by Marc Glassman
Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma. Patrick Reed, director; Peter Raymont, producer.
Toronto’s Dr. James Orbinski has already led a remarkable life — and he’s not even 50. He was the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize winning recipient for Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, the renowned humanitarian organization, which he then led as President. Orbinski spent years in Rwanda, Somalia, and Congo, fighting to save endangered people devastated by civil wars, famine, disease, poverty, and corrupt governments. He witnessed unspeakable crimes against humanity while working tirelessly to alleviate the agony and sorrow around him.
Eventually, he returned home and tried to make sense of what he’d experienced. The process of remembering — painful, personal, and political — inevitably led Orbinski to return to Africa over the past few years. Accompanied by filmmaker Patrick Reed and a small crew, Dr. Orbinski visited the African cities and countryside he knew so well to talk to old friends and assess their current situation. While Reed filmed Orbinski’s encounters, the doctor wrote his memoirs. Together, the book — An Imperfect Offering and the film, Triage, provide a moving and thoughtful account of what it’s like to be a compassionate, capable individual thrown into circumstances that are the stuff of nightmares.
Man’s inhumanity to man is a cliché but it’s something Orbinski saw all too frequently. As a doctor, he was often forced into his own impossible scenario: the act of triage. When you have dwindling supplies of medicine and food, you’re often asked to make the ultimate choice — who lives and who dies?
In the course of Patrick Reed’s compassionate portrait of Dr. Orbinski, the viewer is allowed insights into a man who has witnessed the worst of humanity — and, yet, has come out believing that solutions are possible and that life can improve around the world.
Triage carries us through a rough journey but it’s one worth making. If cinema is about seeing heroes on screen, why not forget “stars” for a week and meet someone truly worthy of that title — Dr. James Orbinski?
Real Time Randall Cole, director and writer. Starring: Jay Baruchel (Andy Hayes), Randy Quaid (Reuben), Jayne Eastwood (Andy’s grandmother)
Andy (Jay Baruchel) is a small time gambler but a big time loser. Somehow, the little twerp has amassed a $68,000 debt and parlayed that into a contract on his life by repeatedly making fun of the mobster to whom he owes the cash. One wintry afternoon in dreary Hamilton, a tough Aussie named Reuben (Randy Quaid) grabs Andy and “takes him on a ride.”
We all know what that means. The jig is up. Andy is clean out of options. Reuben has even taken his cat, presumably to find it a better home after Andy is gone. And it turns out that Reuben’s largesse extends to Andy — although “largesse” may be stretching the term.
Since he’s supposed to kill Andy by 3pm and he’s grabbed him about an hour earlier, Reuben offers to give the doomed man that amount of time to get his life in order before departing forever.
Filmed in real time — the movie clocks in at 77 minutes — director/writer Randall Cole has provided audiences with a handy gimmick. The twitchy and morose Andy and the affable but rough Reuben make an appealing odd couple as they wheel around Hamilton searching for a hooker who is a Rosie Perez look-alike — she’s not around — and buying chicken at a run-down joint in a low-rent strip mall.
They bring the chicken over to Andy’s grandmother (Jayne Eastwood), the only relative who ever cared for him. In a funny and pathetic scene, Andy tries to make things right with his grandmother while Reuben is watching and a daytime TV show is playing in the background. All too quickly from Andy’s perspective — but not necessarily from that of a slightly jaded viewer — Reuben and he move on for a final confrontation.
Real Time benefits hugely from its small but excellent cast. Baruchel (Seth Rogen’s pal in Knocked Up and real life) and Quaid (The Last Detail, Brokeback Mountain) keep our interest throughout the picture and Jayne Eastwood is terrific as Andy’s grandmother. It’s wonderfully appropriate that Cole cast Eastwood in his film. She starred as a young, funny, and appealing girlfriend in Goin’ Down the Road back in 1969, and that’s the film which set the “Canadian style” of low-budget semi-realistic comedy-dramas that Real Time emulates.
Thanks to his actors and a quirky script that delivers a somewhat surprising ending, Randall Cole’s Real Time is an entertaining movie. But be warned: an anecdote about fast food preparation may change your eating habits—for the better.
The Reel Asian festival takes place from Nov. 12th to 16th in downtown venues ranging from the Bloor to the Rivoli. The opening night film, The Drummer, by Canadian educated director Kenneth Bi, stars Jackie Chan’s son Jaycee and involves Zen drumming and gangsters. That’s the festival in a nutshell: encompassing pop culture and traditional art, music with philosophy, and docs with sexy dramas. Check out their website for details.