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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Poverty > Crisis > AIDS > Africa > I Am Because We Are (2008/Virgil Films DVD)

I Am Because We Are (2008/Virgil Films DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: C+     Film: B



Madonna continues to be a major force and survivor in music, but her affiliation with any kind of filmmaking has been very much the opposite.  However, her newest approach has been with documentaries and she does everything but direct a look at a horrible crisis in Malawi, a once healthy and promising part of South Africa where over a million children have been orphaned because their parents died of AIDS.  Nathan Rissman’s I Am Because We Are (2008) is written, produced and narrated by Madonna in some of the most vital work of her career and fine work by Rissman.


The situation is a crisis, yet amazingly, it takes a thorough work to really show what is going on when the world media is MIA in what should be their journalistic responsibilities.  There is no sewage system, AIDS is just the worst of the many diseases they have to deal with (in part because of no sewage system), the majority live on less than a $1.00 a day, they eat once a day if that and education is out of reach at a $10.00 a term.  How did things get this bad?


The documentary covers what happened down there for conditions to go from promising to disaster and we get United Nations statistics, yet they are never blamed (nor are any superpowers, the G-20 and/or any corporations) for this mess.  With all of the wealthy, intelligence and science out there, Malawi is a red alert of how bad the irresponsibility and geopolitics have decimated places that should be left alone or have a chance to grow.  Guess the renaming of Third World Countries as “emerging markets” only counts if you can make a fortune at the grave expense of others.


Important figureheads like President Bill Clinton and Bishop Desmond Tutu are among those interviewed, along with some well-spoken experts on the situation, but the most important are those of the children (subtitled) telling the truth about how bad things are and some of the ugly stories are outrageous and include nightmares that are intolerable.


To its credit, the film never relies on illicit pity tricks and Madonna is very thorough about dealing with what is happening, starting with how she got a call that got her permanently involved.  She even asks a question about the people there versus here, saying she does not know the answer.  I wonder if she does.  Either way, it is one worth thinking about and when you get to it, you’ll say the same thing.


As the situation gets worse and similar situations surface in other places, this will turn out to be a very important work.  See it as soon as you can.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image uses a little stock footage, but is composed for the most part from newly taped interviews and location footage to show how bad things can get.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 is simple stereo at best with location recording better than usual.  Extras include more interviews, stills and deleted scenes.


I found it a problem that Malawi was not specifically anywhere on the front or back of the DVD case, but this is solid journalism and you can find out more at this link:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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