PATIENT ( Paciente) DIR Jorge Cabellero

Patient, which had its British Premiere in the ‘Debate’ section of the 60th London Film festival, is a sensitive and deeply moving documentary by Colombian director Jorge Caballero. The film takes us on a journey as we accompany the mother, Nubia, in her fight against the inhuman bureaucratic system of the Colombian health service to get the necessary treatment for her dying daughter, Leidy. Latinolife got involved in the discussion...
by: 
Corina J Poore

The title PATIENT, in effect, has many shades of meaning, referring not only to the sick girl, Leidy, but also refers to the stoic patience of her mother Nubia as she struggles against the system. In some ways the audience’s patience is also both tested and rewarded!

Despite the sympathy of the nursing staff and doctors, in the end it is the system that fails them all, with insurmountable bureaucratic demands on the relatives as they try to get all the copious paper work in order.  While making an earlier film, Birth: Maternity Journal ( 2011), Caballero developed an interested in the idea of mortality, having noticed the situation in the adjacent Oncological Hospital, and the idea finally took shape:-

“We talked and carried out a lot of interviews (over two years) with doctors and patients. Because at the very beginning we were dealing with two conditions, on the one hand the thinking and the feelings of the doctors and the bureaucracy of the medical processes, and on the other hand, we had the patients dealing with their suffering, and the body itself, and we were looking for a bridge between these two worlds, and we found that the best bridge was the carers." says Caballero.

"In this case, the carers were the relatives, the family members. So we carried out a lot of interviews  with carers, families and relatives and we eventually  found the patient Leidy and once we had explained the project to her,  he was very enthusiastic, so she convinced her mother, Nubia, to accept to be the subject  of the film, to be involved and become a part of this story.”

There is a welcome lack of sentimentality that adds enormous power to this documentary. Jorge Caballero takes a minimalist attitude, removing all superfluous sounds and images. So much so, that we never actually see the dying daughter, Leidy.  

“Actually, she wanted to appear, but I said no, because for me it was very important not to exploit her condition and her image. On the other hand, it was very clear in my mind that I wanted a movie about the ‘patience’ not only patient,  and the feeling of surviving, this feeling of being there all the time trying to deal with these two worlds, for me the (meaning) of the word is more effectively represented by Nubia rather than the patient."

There is a strong emotive power in knowing about the 23-year old Leidy, understanding the heart-breaking anguish that she is going through, being so very close to her, feeling her presence, and yet never actually setting eyes on her. To achieve this effect, the camera keeps to an economical simplicity in the way it shoots. Despite filming almost constantly for almost six months, Caballero chose to use only a few distinct perspectives, which added to the impact.

Because of the minimalist approach, the sound design of the film is particularly important. Caballero avoids background music that so often drowns out documentaries these days, and also decided to have no narration. The sounds that are used are carefully chosen. For instance, we can periodically hear the sounds of a TV in the background, broadcasting a beauty pageant talking about the model’s perfect bodies and the irony is not lost. For Caballero there is a necessity to ‘purify’ the sounds and be strictly selective in the emphasis.

“I always work with a sound editor who is terrific, he is probably the best in Spain and we like to work in this way, we try to work out which are the two or three sounds that really interest us and bring them to the fore, creating the ambience, so important when we are talking about a film shot in a closed space; a film that is dealing with a complex and delicate situation. So it became terribly important to create the sensation of being there, of feeling a part of that space… and I think that this is best achieved through the selective choice of sounds.”

The moving film has had an amazing reception in Colombia. It was screened at the Cartagena Film Festival, and presented by Nubia herself, where she expressed the importance of the film for her, as she feels it is like a mirror of one of the most important events in her life, and she is now able to share it with us. Another interesting result has been the reaction of the Entidad Pública de Salúd, the Health Institution that runs the group of private hospitals where Nubia’s daughter had been treated.

“One consequence was that they (the Health Institution) issued a communiqué and a declaration apologising to the people for the inconveniences and the bureaucracy. The movie raised awareness and was a good bridge to open up a dialogue between the people and the institutions, a small difference… because it is only a movie!”

Distribution for documentaries is never easy as there are few outlets normally, but it has been sold to about 12 TV networks around the world, and they have been signed up with a German Distributor, Rise and Shine in Berlin.

Awards:

  • Festival Internacional de Cartagena ( FICCI) :     Mejor Director de Documental
  • Festival de Cine de Guadalajara( FICG):                  Premio Especial de Jurado Documental Iberoamericano

Cast

  • Nubia Martínez / Leidy Johana Ortegón

Crew

  • Director                                   Jorge Caballero
  • Research & Script             Carol Ann Figueroa Rueda
  • Producers                              Jorge Caballero/ Rosa Ramos
  • Editors                                      Jorge Caballero / Ivan Guarnizo
  • Cinematograher                Lukas Jaramillo
  • Sound                                        Alejandro Molano
  • Sound Designer                                    Alejandro Gallón /Alejandro Castillo
  • Production Company     Gusano Films

PACIENTE (Jorge Caballero, Colombia, 2015) TRAILER EN ESPAÑOL