Steven Engel is a film-maker and an avid sports fan. Like most New Yorkers he often picks up a copy of the New York Times and heads directly towards the sports section to read about his beloved Yankees. So when his close friend mailed him a cutout of an Op-Ed section from the New York Times about a fistula problem with a sticky-note asking “what do you think?” He was moved to take action. After reading two paragraphs of the article, Engel declared to his production staff, “We have to tell this story.” As he explained, getting his team to jump on board to tell this story was a challenge. For those who had the opportunity to experience A Walk to Beautiful we are glad it was a challenge met with success.
“These Women Will Break Your Hearts”
And indeed they did. These words were uttered to Dr. Catherine Hamlin in order to warn her on what to expect from the patients who were suffering from a condition known as obstetric fistula, holes forming between the vagina and the bladder or the rectum. The holes are caused by prolonged difficult labor where the mother delivers a stillborn baby. Through the holes, urine and or feces pass uncontrollably. Dr. Hamlin, who came to Ethiopia in 1959, founded Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital along with her husband in 1975. This is the world’s only hospital of its kind that offers fistula repair surgery at no cost to the women it serves.
A Walk to Beautiful, an award winning documentary directed by Mary Olive Smith, follows the long journey of five women who travel from rural areas to Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to receive treatment and to reclaim their lives. Shunned from their families and set as an outcast by their communities, the hospital is their only hope.
In addition to surgery, the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital also provides therapy. Those who suffer with similar conditions no longer feel alone. They smile, laugh, gossip and form bonds with one another and that gives them the energy to move on. After a couple of treatments they are made whole again and are given new clothes to go back home in.
Throughout the film, the deep eyes of the women suffering from this condition easily follow you. Their voice, some who lack hope, speaks to you easily making you shed tears along with them and feel their deep and throbbing pain. One young woman in particular, Yenenesh makes you want to somehow reach through the screen and offer her reassurance. While the doctors receive praises on-film, it offers humanism and does not take away from the subject of the documentary, the women who are suffering from the fistula condition.
Although obstetric fistula is almost entirely preventable, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that at least 2 million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region are living with this condition, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.
To receive more information on the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital or to make a donation, visit http://www.fistulafoundation.org/
If you are ready to be inspired and to be changed then run and catch A Walk to Beautiful.
It is a very touching film that should not go unseen.
Now playing at The Quad Cinema
Show Times: 1:00 PM and 7:45 PM every day
The Quad Cinema
34 West 13th Street New York, NY 10011
For information on the film, to view a trailer, or to find out how to donate to The Fistula Foundation visit www.walktobeautiful.com.