Saturday, February 09, 2008

A Walk to Beautiful

Dear friends,
I'm writing to recommend a great movie -- one that means a lot to me -- that has just appeared in a theater in NYC (see details below; it's also in LA and will hopefully soon start running in other cities as well).  If you miss it in theaters, the film is set to air nationwide on the award-winning PBS show NOVA on May 13th.
The feature-length documentary is called A Walk to Beautiful and it features the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital and stories of some of the patients who are healed there.  To watch a trailer, you can go to:
My parents lived in Ethiopia for eight years (before moving to Kenya four years ago) and during one of my visits there introduced me to this amazing, inspirational hospital, which was founded by an Australian gynecologist, Dr. Catherine Hamlin, and her late husband to heal women suffering from the terrible childbirth injury, an obstetric fistula.  Dr. Hamlin has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and I view her as the Mother Teresa of Africa.
I now serve on the board of the Fistula Foundation, which raises money to support the work of the hospital and also provided funding for A Walk to Beautiful -- all profits from AWTB will go to the Foundation.  To see photos from my most recent trip to the hospital two years ago, see, and for photos from my two earlier visits, click here and here.  To learn more about the hospital and the fistula problem, Nicholas Kristof wrote two wonderful Op Eds in the New York Times, Alone and Ashamed and The Illiterate Surgeon.  I also suggest seeing Dr. Hamlin’s appearance on Oprah (click here for a transcript of the show, which brought Oprah and the audience to tears).
A Walk to Beautiful just won Best Feature-length Documentary at the International Documentary Association Awards Ceremony on December 7th 2007. The film premiered at the San Francisco Film Festival on May 5, 2007 where it won the coveted "Audience Award". Since then it has screened at numerous film festivals.  Below is the review in yesterday's NY Times.
If you have a chance to see it, please let me know what you think!
Warm regards,
Movie Review

A Walk to Beautiful (2007)

A Walk to Beautiful
Engel Entertainment

Ayehu in the documentary "A Walk to Beautiful," directed by Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher.

February 8, 2008

Healing Cultural Wounds

Published: February 8, 2008, NYT

Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher’s documentary “A Walk to Beautiful,” about the mistreatment of mothers suffering from childbirth injuries in Ethiopia, starts out quietly furious, detailing how its female subjects were ostracized by their villages, husbands, siblings, even parents.

The women have obstetric fistulas, holes between the vagina and the bladder or rectum. The holes are caused by prolonged labor and difficult birth, traumas that often deliver a dead infant and cause the mother to leak blood, urine or feces. Ethiopian women afflicted with these injuries can find themselves living in a shack behind their family home, cut off from normal social interaction and marginalized like incontinent pets.

The film follows a group of such women to a clinic in Addis Ababa, where they wait to have their injuries repaired by surgery and form the sorts of peer groups that their condition denied them back home.

While the narrative of “Beautiful” seems straightforward — women suffer and then get better — the film is a complex and quietly devastating indictment of chauvinist societies that see women as lovers, mothers and servants, and treat anyone who can’t fulfill those roles as a nonperson.


Opens in Manhattan on Friday.

Directed by Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher; in English, Amharic and Oromiffa, with English subtitles; directors of photography, Tony Hardmon, Ms. Smith and Jerry Risius; edited by Andrew Ford; music by David Schommer; produced by Ms. Bucher, Steven Engel and Ms. Smith; released by Engel Entertainment. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 1 hour 25 minutes. This film is not rated.

Quad Cinema
34 West 13th Street, New York, NY 10011Map It
(212) 255-8800
Average Reader Rating
5 rating, 9 votes
Rate It
October 22nd, 2007
Pitch-perfect and riveting
If you have time for only one documentary this year, here it is. Flawless and mesmerizing, here is an elegant, spare yet comprehensive presentation of a pitiful long-neglected problem affecting up to two million women world-wide. The camera stays focused on the women themselves and their dilemma, and avoids the cloying distraction of an interloping, inevitably first-world interviewer. The subjects are accorded the respect to render their stories solely in their own terms, and we the viewers are accorded the respect of being presumed to undertand the same without commentary. This pitch-perfect documentary sets a new bar for mature film-making in the service of worthwhile endeavors.
- stephanieben


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