Madonna shines light on Malawi with documentary

Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:52am EDT
 
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By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A single phone call prompted Madonna to begin charity work in Malawi and it was while making a documentary on the African country's 1 million orphans that she found a baby she decided to adopt.

Premiering at New York's Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday, "I Am Because We Are," which was written, produced and narrated by Madonna, looks at the plight of the children orphaned by the AIDS crisis in one of the world's poorest countries.

Her interest in Malawi began about two years ago after she was contacted by a businesswoman, born and raised in the country, through a mutual friend. "She said it was a state of emergency," Madonna says in the film. "She sounded exhausted and on the verge of tears. I asked her how I could help.

"She said: 'You're a person with resources. People pay attention to what you say and do.' I felt embarrassed. I told her I didn't know where Malawi was. She told me to look it up on a map and then she hung up on me," said Madonna, 49.

She educated herself on Malawi and the result is a charity for the country's orphans called Raising Malawi and the 94-minute documentary from first-time director Nathan Rissman.

"It was during filming, during researching these different orphanages, that she found David," Rissman said in an interview.

David is the Malawian boy Madonna and her film director husband, Guy Ritchie, are adopting. He has lived with the couple in London since shortly after the adoption process began about 18 months ago. Malawi's government, which has been criticized for giving the singer-actress preferential treatment, has recommended the adoption be approved and a hearing on that is set for May 15.

"I Am Because We Are" shows footage of David being cared for by a 9-year-old girl with HIV at the Home of Hope orphanage in Malawi.   Continued...

 
<p>Madonna holds her adopted son, David Banda, at an orphan care centre run by Raising Malawi, a grassroots initiative by Madonna, in Mphendula Village, about 40 km (25 miles) from the capital Lilongwe April 19, 2007. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>