Madonna makes Cannes debut as filmmaker with Malawi movie
Andrew McCathie reports from the Côte d'Azur on a pop star who made a documentary prompted by her adoption of a child.
Pop icon Madonna, making her moviemaking debut at the Cannes Film Festival with a documentary about the plight of orphans in Malawi, said she planned to make more films about the hardships facing children.
"I went to Malawi thinking I was going to save some lives and that my efforts would change lives," she told reporters at the film about the 1 million children in Malawi who have been made orphans after losing their parents to AIDS.
But Madonna went on to say: "I realized if you want to change (something) then you would have to change your life. It takes so little to do something (to help people in developing countries)."
While Madonna did not appear in Filth and Wisdom, her directing debut which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, she wrote, narrated, produced and enlisted first-time director and her one-time gardener Nathan Rissman to make the documentary, I Am Because We Are.
"I would like to make more films," Madonna told reporters. "I love documentaries. I would like to make more, specifically focusing on children in other parts of the world."
Madonna said former US vice President Al Gore's anti-global warming film, An Inconvenient Truth, had been an inspiration to her.
The invited black-tie Cannes audience, which included Hollywood star Sharon Stone, gave a warm reception to the movie in May.
Madonna said she did not feel there was any particular contradiction in her luxury hotel accommodation in Cannes and the plight of those portrayed in her film. "It is important to see the extremes of life," she said.
The 90-minute documentary begins with Madonna saying: "People always ask me why I chose Malawi. I didn't. It chose me."
The movie also touches on Madonna's adoption in 2006 of a child, David, from Malawi, which is one of the poorest countries in the world. More than 60 per cent of its 12 million citizens live on less than one dollar a day.
She said David's story in the film had helped to illustrate how, because of the death of family members, children become responsible for looking after children.
Nevertheless, the adoption sparked controversy, with claims that the official papers had been processed with undue haste and the boy's biological father saying he did not understand what adoption meant.
But Madonna said her adoption of David, whose mother had died of AIDS, had resulted in the creation of adoption laws in Malawi and that she hoped more people could now adopt children there. She said David's father had later agreed to the adoption.
However, she said the controversy that followed the adoption had been a very difficult period for her, describing it as "painful and a big struggle."
I Am Because We Are, which is derived from a remark by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, premiered last month at New York's Tribeca Film Festival.
Apart from prominent Malawi activists and Tutu, the Madonna documentary also includes interviews with former US president Bill Clinton, leading US third world economist Jeffrey Sachs and medical anthropologist Paul Farmer.
But it is the often tragic and harrowing stories told by many of the children that are the most powerful part of the movie.
"We have a lot to learn from people from developing nations who have so little," she said.
(DPA - Expatica May 2008)