A Walk to Beautiful



Engel Entertainment

NEW YORK -- As much social statement as documentary, Mary Olive Smith and Amy Bucher's film chronicles the plight of five Ethiopian women suffering from obstetric fibulas, a devastating but easily reversed condition stemming from problems during childbirth.

This affliction, suffered by untold other women in poor countries, results in uncontrollable leakage of bodily waste from holes in the birth canal.

"A Walk to Beautiful," now playing a limited theatrical release before airing on PBS' "Nova" in the spring, presents a bleak portrait of these women's lives even while providing a happy ending in the form of their eventual treatment at a free hospital in Addis Ababa, hundreds of miles from where they live.

The docu details how the women in question have been ostracized by their families and communities, who treat them, in the words of one of their doctors, as "modern-day lepers."

It also deals with the patriarchal nature of the isolated rural communities in which women are often treated as little more than commodities.

That the film ultimately is not entirely depressing is thanks to the indomitable spirit and eloquence displayed by its subjects, as well as to the natural beauty of the African countryside, captured to often gorgeous effect here on digital video.

The filmmakers take a measured approach to their subject matter, refraining from injecting the proceedings with extraneous emotionalism.

While this has the effect of reducing the film of some of its potential dramatic impact, their restraint is admirable in this era of overheated editorializing.