May 07, 2017

“This film is not about what Dr Jack has done, but about overwhelming need. The film shows how much more needs to be done.”

Those were the typically modest words of Dr Jack Preger after a screening of a new multi-award winning documentary film about his life, Doctor Jack, at Alliance Francaise in Kolkata on 16th February night.

The powerful film follows Dr Jack from his time as a hill farmer in Wales to working as a doctor with traumatized refugees in Bangladesh and then through his time in Kolkata where over the past 35 years the charity he founded, Calcutta Rescue, has provided free healthcare, education and other support to half a million of the city’s poorest people.

Addressing a select audience of 60 journalists and guests, Dr Jack said people in the city saw desperate poverty every day of their lives, but most did nothing about it.

He said it required a “change of conscience from the top to the bottom” of society for the needs of the very poor to be addressed properly.

But he paid tribute to the “tremendous progress made in Kolkata and West Bengal in terms of medical care.”

Dr Jack, who is still working at the charity at the age of 87, said treatment of diseases like TB and leprosy had been revolutionized here in recent years, but warned that a huge effort was now needed to prevent drug resistant strains from spreading through the population.

The film’s maker, Swiss photo-journalist Benoit Lange, who has supported Dr Jack’s work for three decades, described Calcutta Rescue as “a great Indian project.”

 “What Dr Jack has done is something very great; everybody living in Kolkata can see the result.

“He gave this project to Indians to manage and to run and it is getting bigger and bigger.”

He urged people in the city to throw their support behind the charity which has until now had to rely on financial support from a dwindling number of people in Western countries.

Calcutta Rescue’s new chief executive, Jaydeep Chakraborty, said the work the charity did with slum dwellers was very challenging and described its 150 staff as: “tough people working on the ground with passion, heart and soul.”

Two free screenings of the film also took place at the well-known Priya Cinema, Kolkata on February 18 and February 19 as well.