Madonna (and her ‘manny’) wow Cannes with AIDS documentary

LAST UPDATED AT 10:05 ON Fri 23 May 2008

After years of trying (and trying, and trying) Madonna (pictured) appears to have finally produced an acceptable film. Yesterday in Cannes, her latest attempt, I Am Because We Are, a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in Malawi, received almost universal acclaim from critics, with the Times awarding it a glowing four-star review. However, the 50-year-old singer's involvement was as a writer and producer and not as an actress, although she does make a brief, fleeting appearance in the film.

Much of the credit must go to Nathan Rissman, who was formerly Madonna's man-servant. Rissman got to know the singer when his wife worked as a nanny. At various times he worked as her research assistant, video archivist, gardener and "manny" and won her over by making short films of her children, which he sent her while she was travelling.

The film touches on the singer's high-profile adoption of a baby boy, David Banda, whose mother was killed by AIDS. Yesterday she compared the process, which has generated many negative headlines, to the pain of childbirth. "It was painful and a big struggle and I didn't understand it. But in the end I rationalised that when a woman has a child and goes through natural childbirth she suffers an enormous amount. So I went through my own kind of birthing pains, dealing with the press on my doorstep, accusing me of kidnapping or whatever."

Madonna said she wanted to continue making documentaries with Rissman focusing on children; the Israel-Palestine conflict is the subject of their next project. · 

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