News Of Madonna's Film Reaches Malawi

Madonna carries David Banda in her arms, Thursday, April 19, 2007 at Consol Homes, a day care center that she is funding in the village of Masekese, Malawi.
AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo
Some 100 miles from Malawi's capital, the dusty village of Lipunga has no movie theaters or video players, let alone electricity. But villager Yohane Banda has at least heard that Madonna's new documentary is meant to draw attention to this southern African country's poverty.

It's a subject Banda knows well. Poverty forced him to put his son in an orphanage - and now Madonna is on the verge of adopting his son, David Banda, who turns 3 in September.

Banda said David's mother died when his son was just a month old. He believed that he could not care for him alone and that placing him in an orphanage was his "surest" chance to survive.

Photos: "I Am Because We Are"
"After losing two sons, I really wanted David to survive," Banda said in a telephone interview Monday.

Two children born earlier had died in childbirth, as did a third baby his second wife bore after David was sent to the orphanage.

Banda, a peasant farmer who ekes out a living growing maize, tomatoes and potatoes, said he used to ride a bicycle to visit his son at the orphanage. When he wasn't able to go, David's grandmother would visit.

"It isn't true that we abandoned him," Banda said in Chichewa.

Banda said he had originally planned to bring David home when he was old enough to eat solid food. Instead, the pastor who runs the orphanage came to him some two years ago to say a "rich white woman" was interested in adopting David.

"We sat down as a family to consider it. After banging our heads together we thought this was good for David so we readily agreed," Banda said.

Banda said that when he met the singer and her husband in a Lilongwe court in 2006, when a judge gave the celebrity couple temporary custody of David, he was promised he would be seeing his son occasionally.

The judge is expected to rule on Madonna's adoption request later this month. Last month, two reports by a Malawian child welfare officer who had visited David in London were released, recounting that David has "bonded well" with Madonna's family, and recommending the adoption be approved.

When "I Am Because We Are," the documentary Madonna produced and narrated, premiered at New York's Tribeca Film Festival last month, an audience member asked the pop diva about the difficulty of adopting children from Malawi.

"It's a new concept, the concept of adoption, consequently it's very, very time-consuming," she said. "I guess if you really want to do it you have to be willing to walk through the fire."

The film shows poverty and disease devastating the lives of Malawi's children, and urges people to volunteer. Madonna provides food, education and shelter for Malawian children through her Raising Malawi organization, and first met David while setting up her charity projects here.

By Raphael Tenthani