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50th San Francisco International Film Festival at PFA

Saturday, May 5, 2007
1:00 p.m. A Walk to Beautiful
Mary Olive Smith (Ethiopia/U.S., 2006)

"Even death would be better than this. This is not life," says twenty-five-year old Ayehu. She lives in a ragged lean-to behind her mother's house, thrown out by her husband after a weeklong labor left her with a stillborn child and a tear in her bladder that causes urine to leak continuously and uncontrollably. Shunned by neighbors, unable to work or even live indoors because of her condition, Ayehu is one of thousands of women in rural Ethiopia who suffer from obstetric fistula. It's a tragically common consequence of obstructed childbirth in developing countries, where doctors are scarce and obstetric care is practically nonexistent. Girls are undernourished and overworked, married off at the age of five or ten. Pregnant as young as twelve or thirteen, their bodies are unable to handle the trauma of childbirth. The title of this compassionate documentary refers to the arduous journey Ayehu and many young women make on foot and by bus from their remote villages to the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital to have corrective surgery. Australian husband-and-wife doctors Reginald and Catherine Hamlin opened the hospital in 1974 to treat fistula patients free of charge. Now widowed and elderly, the remarkable Dr. Catherine Hamlin continues to oversee the work of the hospital's dedicated staff. The film follows five women from the despair of their conditions to hope and confidence as they undergo treatment and take control of their lives.

—Margarita Landazuri

• Photographed by Tony Hardmon, Smith. (94 mins)