Three years ago, I traveled to Ethiopia to help work on a documentary film about young women suffering from an obscure childbirth ailment known as fistula. I'd known about the project from my previous work with Engel Entertainment, so for two weeks in the beginning of 2005, I helped a small crew of filmmakers, led by Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher, feel a little bit more at home in a country that, since I thought I knew it better than any of them, and since I knew a little bit about what it took to make a film, I could make them feel a bit more at home in.
But what happened in the process, as I made daily trips to the fistula hospital and sat with the doctors and nurses and grew closer with the patients, some of whom had traveled (often on foot) hundreds of kilometers to seek out treatment, was that I, who was supposed to be a kind of cultural liason and native informant, ended up learning more about Ethiopia than I'd ever known before. The doctors at the hospital and the young women who were treated there during my time will stay in my memory forever for their quiet dignity, grace, beauty, and resilience in the face of unimaginable suffering.
A Walk to Beautiful finally starts its run at the Quad Cinema (if you're reading this after February 8th, click the "Now Playing" tab on the site) and will be there as long as there are people in the area interested in seeing it. That means, if you're reading this now, and you live in New York, and especially if you're African or interested in Africa or in issues of public health or you're sick of watching "American Gladiator" or all of the above, you should break out your day planner and write "AWTB @ Quad" somewhere in the next couple weeks.
As the former head of the U.N. Kofi Annan famously put it, "If we want to save Africa, we must save Africa's women first." And part of that, undoubtedly, involves allowing their stories to be seen and heard. At Quad Cinemas, starting this Friday, don't miss your chance to do just that.