'Shout Gladi Gladi': Film Review

Courtesy of International Film Circuit

An inessential doc about a charity doing badly needed work.

Meryl Streep narrates efforts to improve the lives of African women suffering from obstetric fistulas.

It's tough work making a feel-good doc about obstetric fistula, a horrific condition afflicting millions of women and girls in Africa, but the celebratory title of Shout Gladi Gladi signals that Adam Friedman intends to do just that. This look at the work of a foundation run by Scottish bus-line tycoon Ann Gloag has little going for it in cinematic terms aside from narration by Meryl Streep, and includes medical footage graphic enough to scare away most audiences. But those who brave it in its theatrical tour will not fail to be impressed by the work doctors and volunteers are doing in desperately poor communities and touched by the stories of those they work to save.

Though staff at the Fistula Care Centre in Malawi and Sierra Leone's Aberdeen Women’s Centre address many women's health issues, we hear most about obstetric fistula, in which problematic childbirth can open holes between the bladder and/or rectum and vagina. Not only is the resulting leakage miserable and life-threatening, the condition is so stigmatized that those suffering it are cast out of communities. Caesarean sections prevent fistulas in the West, but in these countries (where we're told one in 39 women die in childbirth and one in six children die before they turn five), even the most basic obstetric care is rarely available.

In establishing the depths of suffering here, Friedman shows fewer grisly scenes than we might fear. Meanwhile, the tone in which he chronicles success stories may lead us to feel we're watching a fundraising video; indeed, Gloag's foundation holds the copyright to the film. No one would argue the importance of the work being done, but (judging from what we see onscreen) Gloag is not one of those charismatic figures whose lives have inspired more satisfying do-gooder docs. The film is most intellectually stimulating when it ventures outside her group, to get big-picture commentary on public-health charities from Melinda Gates and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka.

Production company: Vertical Ascent

Director: Adam Friedman

Screenwriters: Adam Friedman, Iain Kennedy

Producers: Iain Kennedy, Patti Cohoon-Friedman, Lois Boyle, Jackie Vorhauer, Roma Torre

Executive producers: Ann Gloag, Adam Friedman

Director of photography: Marty Mullin

Editor: Sean MacGowan

Music: Odd Nosdam

No rating, 79 minutes