Moussa Maman is part medical doctor, part psychotherapist, part traditional healer. At his unassuming office and during hospital visits, he sees adults and children with a wide range of ailments, from those suffering mysterious discomforts, to patients with AIDS, to near-catatonic children whose survival is in question.
FEVERS is a tightly focused film that documents Dr. Maman's practice in the village of Bello Tounga, in northern Benin. He sits in his simple armchair, occasionally rising to examine a patient lying on his table. The questions he asks may be surprising for those used to medical treatment in the West. What day of the week two years ago did you eat a particular piece of grilled food? What are your dreams like? He may prescribe medication such as quinine, but he is just as likely to offer a recipe for a herbal tea or suggest that a patient sleep wearing an amulet to free herself from a curse. In one case, he asks for the crop of a black hen who has never laid eggs, so that he can use it to prepare a remedy.
At first, Dr. Maman's methods may seem like an odd combination of incompatible practices. But it soon becomes apparent that he is an astute and canny observer of his patients. His direct questions unearth personal problems with surprising speed, and he clearly tailors his treatments to his patients' beliefs and values. A mother brings a baby with a poultice previously applied by a spiritual healer on its scalp; after she leaves, Dr. Maman turns to the camera and says he left it on "because the mother believes in it."
FEVERS is an unassuming film whose strength is the depth with which it observes this remarkable healer in action.
Cinéma du Réel Documentary Film Festival
FID Marseille Documentary Film Festival