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ABC Africa

ABC Africa

Director:Abbas Kiarostami
Genre:Film, Documentary

By Lee Gardner | Posted

ABC Africa opens with a shot of a letter inching out of a fax machine--a letter inviting acclaimed Iranian-born filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (The White Balloon, Taste of Cherry) to visit Uganda to make a documentary about the Uganda Women's Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO) program. The rest of Kiarostami's digital-video diary of the trip is equally matter-of-fact. There are a few scenes where a talking head or voice-over explains that UWESO, originally founded to help the victims of the country's endemic warfare, now focuses on helping the victims of AIDS. (In a country of 22 million people, at least 2 million live with HIV/AIDS and there are at least 1.6 million orphaned children.) The rest of the time, ABC Africa resembles a meandering but well-shot vacation video, albeit one that includes a trip to an AIDS-patient ward and an ad hoc funeral where a dead child's body is wrapped in a cardboard box and taken away on a bicycle hearse. Despite such glimpses of the country's ongoing medical tragedy, much of Kiarostami's footage captures everyday Ugandans and Ugandan children working, shopping, laughing, cavorting for the camera, or simply being. That's the impression that lingers in the mind well after Kiarostami's plane leaves African soil--with him shooting out the window all the while.

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