“I Am Because We Are” + “Intro”

Madonna introduced the documentary in a splendid sparkling black v-necked dress with silver spangles, and then the still images of skeletal children with AIDS began. This photo montage, the stills flashing in black and white as if taken from behind the front line, was the powerful punch of the documentary. We also have sweet comments from little girls smiling and saying that, yes, they are HIV positive. Then comes a shot of an open wooden coffin bearing a child, his dead face painted white.
Yet the film is weak and its weakness lies in Madonna’s over-the-top urge to make this a film of hope. After shocking us with facts and images, Madonna (with director Rissman) overburdens the film with an insistence on positive thinking as the solution. These people could make the country work if only they adopted a forward-leaning attitude. “You can change your destiny,” the voice-over goes, admonishing the people of Malawi to remember the mantra: “I am responsible for my actions.” The film begins and ends with a Malawian saying twisted to hammer in the responsibility point: “No one can shave your head when you’re not there.”

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