Release poster for the comedy The African Doctor.
The African Doctor
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
When a book or movie stays with me and keeps me thinking long after I read or saw it, I know it’s something worth sharing. The comedy-drama The African Doctor is just such a movie. (The movie’s original title is Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont.) It tells the story of a gifted and conscientious doctor, Seyolo Zantoko, who leaves his native country in Africa with his family for a better life away from deep rooted corruption. Although warmly invited by the mayor of a rural French village to fill the long vacant post of doctor, Seyolo and his family are not welcomed by the villagers. Facing constant adversity of all sorts with determination and humor, Seyolo, his wife and their two young children struggle with the difficult task of finding their unique place in the community and acceptance in their new home. Finally, on Christmas Eve, there is a break through moment and things begin to take a positive turn.
I love how this charming story is told. Set in the 1970s, the story is based on the life experiences of Kamini Zantoko, one of the movie’s cowriters, growing up in the only black family in the French country village of Marly-Gomot. There is a lot of humor mixed in with the everyday struggles. Also, the pacing of the movie is similar to the pace of life in a rural village and there is a strong sense of the times. Perhaps because of this – I was also a child in the 1970s - I found it particularly easy to identify with the children and their parents. The ending, which involved the children, was a lot of fun, too. Many of the movies I enjoy the most are foreign films because of their interesting perspectives, and this one is too.
What I kept thinking about after watching this very enjoyable film was my own experiences as a newcomer and how difficult it often was – at school, in a job, in a group, in a new town. These sorts of things tend to be part of life but dealing with all of these at once plus negotiating a very different culture, as the Zantoko family did, is a challenge on a different level than anything I have experienced. Eventually the Zantokos became respected members of their community and found home. That made me wonder about ways we could all help make our own communities a better place in the coming year. Perhaps this film will inspire you, too!
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.