Emmy-winning documentary introduced to Iowa City


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Childbirth is usually a somewhat simple process in the United States thanks to the obstetric care offered to women. However, it is not so in some countries. In fact, many women still die during labor in poorer countries.

The documentary A Walk to Beautiful follows the story of five Ethiopian women who have obstetric fistula — a devastating injury from obstructive labor during childbirth. In the Ethiopian culture, females are married and have kids at a young age. Many of them have small pelvises, and the baby doesn’t fit through the birth canal, which results in the death of the baby. Because of all the pressure, these women develop obstetric fistulas.

As a result, they are rejected by their husbands and families and live a life of shame. A Walk to Beautiful follows the journey of a few women to a fistula hospital, where they are treated.

A Walk to Beautiful will be shown at 7 p.m. today at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. This event is free and open to the public. There will be a Q&A with film producers Steven Engel and Heidi Reavis following the documentary.

“[The documentary is] a story of trials and determination and courage,” said Matt Rizzo, a science adviser for Engel Entertainment, the film’s production company.

A Walk to Beautiful won the International Documentary Association award for best feature documentary, and it also won an Emmy for outstanding information programming.

“It tells the intractable problems that face women in the developing world — under-nutrition and lack of obstetric care,” Rizzo said. “[It’s] a story from a lot of different perspectives.”

He proposed that the documentary be shown in Iowa City because it is an important story and engaging for a progressive community. The screening is free because Rizzo and the producers wanted to get the message out and have it be accessible to everyone.

“You could view it as a gift to the community,” Rizzo said.

Everyone throughout the community, ranging from medical students to writers to international students, will be interested in the story, Rizzo said. Because of this, there are several events surrounding the film.

Besides the screening, there will be classes in the theater department with the producers. The medical school will host a session for medical personnel to learn what film producers have to say about promoting the message. There will be a larger session at the Dey House for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, discussing how to tell a story that is untellable — how to make such a horrible story engaging and make people want to watch it.

Engel Entertainment has made other numerous documentaries for such major media outlets as the History Channel and the Discovery Channel. Rizzo said the great thing about working with a film-production company is that it gets the message out to a wider audience, with the possibility of influencing many people.

“It’s engaging and has reached a lot of people,” Rizzo said. “Hopefully, it’s doing a lot of good that might not otherwise have been done if [the documentary] hadn’t been made.”

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