An African viewmaster reel
The Concise Critic: | New England | 09/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is how developing Africa looks and feels. (And, the film deserves great credit for that. This is the only film I've seen since my return from teaching in Malawi 25 years ago which makes me feel there again.) Yet there is only so much of children mugging for the white man's camera, of drunks outside the village bars, of shy young mothers trying to avoid the camera. . .before. . .you want a story.
Maybe, that is the director's intention: to capture the everyday. But then, and this is the film's other great strength, there is the footage of the home, ruined by civil war, still rented out to government workers; of the hospital spilling those dead from AIDS, of the--almost countless-- orphans and the small, locally-organized groups of women trying to help them, and, finally, most memorably, the clouds below the jet bound back to Europe. That final minute is poetic cinematography."
A. E. Burtlebe | Cedar Rapids, IA United States | 11/27/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It would have been easy for Abbas Kiarostami to fly to Uganda and play "Bono" -- giving the world "simple answers" (send money; buy "red" products) for "simple problems" (they have AIDS and are dying) -- instead he takes a harder path: providing no answers or questions, forcing the viewer to find the significance for all that he just saw. It's a difficult picture, because it appears as if there's very little going on, besides some tourist videography, but soon you start to question the helpfulness of the UN (in sending a camera crew instead of something better) and the savings clubs for the women, and the adoption of little Ugandans by Europeans. The thread of futility strikes daggers at the heart of "Oprah Do-Gooderism" by wondering if it's all for naught. There are beautiful scenes in this movie (of children dancing and singing and automobiles driving along dirt paths) and scenes of torment both of which feed into what we stereotypically expected from the film and from "Africa" itself. Perhaps it's all lost on this age which views self-reflection as something foreign."
Beautiful, poetic, deeply sad documentary, one of Kiarostami
Grigory's Girl | NYC | 08/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Abbas Kiarostami is one of Iran's greatest filmmakers, and honestly, I believe he's one of the world's greatest filmmakers. This film, a documentary about the AIDS/orphan crisis in Uganda, is one of his most remarkable works. Many filmmakers/documentarians would employ a "TV news" style to this type of material, but that would end up being pedantic and it's been done so many times. Most people who are going into this film know (or are at least familiar with) the AIDS crisis in Africa, and are not going to need to hear the socio-political background. Kiarostami doesn't go the obvious route, and concentrates on the people of Uganda. Aside from a few offical spokespeople giving a minimal of background information, Abbas lets this film play out with many long traveling shots of Uganda, shots of the children, shots of a hospital (which is both fascinating and harrowing), a wonderful scene of a wedding, another wonderful scene of an Austrian couple adopting, and a scene shot in almost complete darkness during a thunderstom. This final scene is the most memorable in the film, with profound, beautiful observations by Kiarostami and his crew. Unlike some other documentary filmmakers, Kiarostami doesn't inject himself too much into the film, letting the Ugandan people be the stars of it.
There is also a remarkable documentary about Kiarostami himself on the DVD, where many film critics (most notably Jonathan Rosenbaum, a Chicago Reader film critic and a huge admirer of Kiarostami's work) talk about Kiarostami, his background (which is much more diverse than I had thought), his relationship to Iran and how it impacts his filmmaking, and Kiarostami's philosohpy towards his art and filmmaking. Kiarostami is also a poet, and several of his poems are read during this documentary about his work. It's not surprising that Abbas writes poetry, as there is much poetry in his filmmaking.
ABC Africa is both uplifting and deeply sad at the same time, but Kiarostami manages to walk this fine balance so well, and ABC Africa is one of his most moving, memorable films. The documentary on Abbas himself is also wonderful."
10 days with Ugandan orphans
Daniel B. Clendenin | www.journeywithjesus.net | 01/24/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Written, directed, and edited by the Iranian film maker Abbas Kiarostami, this documentary portrays the plight of Uganda's 2 million children who have been orphaned by the ravages of civil war, life under the psychopathic despot Idi Amin, and AIDS. Kiarostami made the film at the request of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development. If you have been to Africa the sights and sounds are very familiar--piles of smoldering garbage, orange clay landscape, rutted roads, rusted corrugated tin roofs, bicycles, the ubiquitous rubber flip-flop sandals, and a weary yet resilient, elegant, and remarkably joyful people. In the film's most powerful sequence, a nurse wraps a dead child in a dirty blanket, packs him in half of a cardboard box ripped open for the purpose, and then loads the corpse onto the back of a bicycle. In particular, Kiarostami highlights the work of UWESO--Ugandan Women's Efforts To Save Children, an all volunteer organization of women who give themselves to care for the orphans and to train women in small business skills. The film has almost no narrative, and would have been even more powerful if it had. But the images speak for themselves. The title refers to a t-shirt worn by a small child featured in the film who was adopted by a young Austrian couple."