Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Walk to Beautiful

A Walk to Beautiful

Director: Mary Olive Smith
Executive Producer: Steven Engel
Co Producer: Allison Shigo
Field Director and Producer: Amy Buchner
Editor: Andrew Ford
Cinematographer: Tony Hardmon
HD Cinematographer: Jerry Risius
Awards: Audience Award for Best Documentary, Best Human Rights Documentary

This summer, I was blessed enough to visit Africa, and now, I just can’t learn enough about the continent, its history, and its many cultures. So, when I came across the 2007 documentary, A Walk to Beautiful, I was glued to the screen! The film follows several young women from Ethiopia who are suffering from obstetric fistula, which is essentially a condition, typically caused by prolonged labor (more common when the mom’s pelvis is small or the baby isn’t positioned correctly) that creates a hole in either the rectal area or the bladder area. This leads to consistent and uncontrollable urinary and/or fecal leakage.

It’s bad enough that many of the women in developing countries who suffer from this don’t have proper access to the medical care they need for reconstructive surgery, but they also face rejection and marginalization from their husbands and extended family. The film shows one woman whose family banished her to a hut behind the family home because they did not want her to leak in their house! I couldn’t even imagine that kind of rejection from my loved ones.

Some are fortunate enough to learn about the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital’s free services, and so they make the long journey from the Ethiopian country side to the capital (on foot, on buses, however they can), where they hope to be cured and start a new chapter in their lives. Many of them have been dealing with the constant flow, and its accompanying odor, for years with no recourse, so they understandably have high hopes for the surgery. Imagine how crushing it would be if the surgery doesn’t correct the problem, though.

While watching the film, I was in awe of the Ethiopian women’s natural beauty (there was no need for them to "walk to" it, although I'm sure they weren't feeling beautiful, hence the title), but I also felt blessed that I do have access to the proper healthcare here in the US. I don’t know anyone, personally, who has had to deal with this embarrassing condition, but I had heard of the condition before…

Photo from

Ever read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese? This novel, released in 2009, focused on twin brothers Marion and Shiva Stone, who were adopted and raised in a family of doctors. While the story was more so about romantic love and brotherly love, a large portion of it took place at Mission Hospital in Ethiopia, where Shiva performed surgeries to correct obstetric fistula.

I highly recommend both “A Walk to Beautiful” and Cutting for Stone if you’ve never heard of them. Both are honest, eye-opening, and interesting all the way through.

If you’ve already watched this film or read this book, what did you think?

On another note, whenever watching, reading or talking about Ethiopia, does anyone else start craving tibs? (Ethiopian food is delicious! And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're missing out!)

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