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Shout Gladi Gladi     cover image

Shout Gladi Gladi 2016


Distributed by The Video Project, 145 - 9th St., Suite 102, San Francisco, CA 94103; 800-475-2638
Produced by Iain Kennedy, Patti Cohoon-Friedman, Lois Boyle, Jackie Vorhauer, and Roma Torre
Directed by Adam Friedman and Iain Kennedy
DVD, color, 79 min., closed captioned

High School - General Adult
Africa, Pregnancy, Humanitarian Medicine, Philanthropy, Women’s Health

Date Entered: 08/30/2016

Reviewed by Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado

Africa’s maternal health care crisis is a sobering, dire situation. Shout Gladi Gladi documents the crisis in an empathetic, serious, yet uplifting manner. The film was shot in Sierra Leone, Malawi, and Kenya. The word “gladi,” is not directly translatable into English. The title refers to the joy of the girls and women as they shout “gladi gladi,” singing and dancing to celebrate their improved health. The documentary deftly combines factual information with an engaging story-line, profiling seven patients (Florence Banda, Isatu Kamara, Yata Lahai, Vanesia Laiti, Carolynne Nkomo, Tomolero, and Mary Yafet). The bravery of these protagonists and the dedication of the health care workers would be enough to recommend this inspiring piece, but there is more. The documentarians cast reputable talking heads (Melinda Gates, Wole Soyinka) and a celebrity narrator (Meryl Streep). Streep’s cachet and compassionately-voiced recitation of the well-edited narrative evoke both trust and interest. In addition, the film features Ann Gloag, a nurse and the founder of the Freedom from Fistula Foundation, a humanitarian medical aid organization. Obstetric (vesico-vaginal) fistula is a complication of pregnancy. If uncorrected by surgery, the damage causes incontinence, as the bladder and bowel leak to the vagina. The fistula causes great stigma and shame to its sufferers. The corrective surgery is hard to come by in these impoverished countries. Morbidity rates are extremely high. A large proportion of the population is rural, there are no nearby hospitals, and transport is not readily available. Access to basic surgical equipment is often limited. The film also touches upon additional health conditions the women face, such as malaria, malnutrition, AIDS, Ebola, and cancer.

Shout Gladi Gladi is a nuanced documentary, presenting no pat answers. It explains that surgical treatment is only the first step; the social conditions enabling the stigma must be addressed before the women return home. The women are trained in employable skills (e.g., sewing) and given solar power generators (branded the “Bboxx”). This helps to ease their return and eliminate the stigma previously suffered. Gloag explains why simple philanthropy can be inadequate. She leads a tour through empty, never-used buildings that were funded and intended to become a medical center. Successful humanitarian projects must include a sensitivity to cultural and social conditions, and have a component of education toward self-sufficiency. The film demonstrates that exclusive reliance upon traditional medicine and distrust of western medicine, along with social problems such as poverty, prostitution, drug abuse, and lack of family planning education complicate the situation.

The Foundation’s delivery of sustained, comprehensive health care and social services has led to positive word of mouth and trust. But as the film closes, the spread of Ebola threatens the progress. The problems are formidable, but so is the resolve of Gloag, her colleagues, and the women who have been given access to health care and a second chance at life. The film would nicely complement curriculum in health care, gender studies, Africana studies, or international studies. It is a thought-provoking exploration of the intercultural, social complexities of humanitarian medical services, philanthropy and health care.