Fernando Meirelles take note: an honest and unvarnished portrayal of your subject—no matter the intended audience—is the most optimal path toward enlightenment and empathy. Such is one of the virtues of A Walk to Beautiful, which sees the daily plights of Ethiopia’s fistula victims—women who, as a result of obstructed childbirth (usually resulting in the death of the infant), are unable to hold their bladders, leaking urine everywhere they go, all the time—with stunning clarity and humanitarian insight. Such is a horrifying burden made even more unbearable given the country’s disparate medical industry and often impassable natural terrain, with huge portions of its populations hours or days walk away from the nearest road, let alone a doctor who could aid in the event of childbirth gone wrong. Viewing these plights not through a color-coded lens of faux-exotic contrasts but an organic and undecorated palate, the filmmakers utilize the natural beauty of the African landscape to provide their documentary with inquisitive artfulness, though it is the human subjects who comprise the film’s most beautiful works of art. Often shunned from their homes and ostracized from their communities, Smith understands how these women exist in their third world culture and how their lives quickly become useless when they are unable to work or help in family matters. If the film has a dramatic arc, it is one discovered through absolute realism, as a number of women are followed in their treks to a medicinal center where their conditions can likely be cured, lest they be forced to live out the rest of their lives like lepers. If there’s a drawback here, it’s that the film only scantly inquires into the many ways in which this silent epidemic stems from accepted forms of gender oppression, though they are factors less ignored than they are merely understood. One of the film’s subjects (a woman who was married off at age nine before suffering a stillborn child and damaged bladder) speaks of allowing her own daughter to marry whom she chooses and when, regardless of past customs or expectations. Moments such as this suggest nothing less than a silently mounting tidal wave of revolution.
- Engel Entertainment
- 87 min
- Mary Olive Smith, Amy Bucher
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