Yes, almost the entire pop culture world turned its eyes last Saturday might to…Traverse City, Michigan as Madonna came to town to screen her documentary “I Am Because We Are.” That might be a slight exaggeration but it certainly didn’t feel like that as I stood in line with a bunch of Madonna fans to attend a rare screening– it’s only played at the Tribeca Film Festival before this– of the film at the Traverse City Film Festival.
As I stood in line with people from as far away as Chicago, I began to wish I had not agreed to write about the event for Idol Chatter, but instead had sold my tickets–which I won in a lottery drawing for supporters of the festival–on Ebay, as some people did. (I’m college-educated, but I never said I was smart.)
Still my friend and I made the best of it as we attended northern Michigan’s version of a red carpet event: In other words, Madonna didn’t arrive in a limo, but in a black SUV. The red carpet was actually about 50 feet long max. And Michael Moore still didn’t change out of his usually grubby shorts, shirt and baseball cap to pose for photos with the Material Girl.
Okay, Madonna fans, I will start with some juicy details that have nothing to do with the movie.
As you might expect, Madonna brought quite the entourage with her, and they basically took up the entire back row of the theater and then some. Her beautiful daughter Lourdes was with her, and contrary to the Associated Press reports, my friend and I were pretty sure we saw Guy Ritchie there as well, just not on the red carpet. Also, do I dare mention that the average age of the people there to see Madonna was, um, much older than I thought it would be?!
Madonna and Moore were actually pretty funny as they introduced the film. Moore told a story about being at a party at Madonna’s New York apartment on his birthday and she surprised him with a cake. He also joked with her, asking when was the last time she had played in a venue that could only seat a little over 500 people (the size of the theater we were in) and she shot back, “1982.” Madonna also joked about Moore’s lack of dancing ability at the previously mentioned party and hinted at her brother’s recent memoir about her when she referenced vacationing in northern Michigan in her youth with her big family– some of whom were crazier than others.
The documentary itself was okay, definitely not groundbreaking, and at moments felt pretentious, like every time Madonna did a long, long voiceover to the action on the screen. The movie is basically just a bunch of interviews she did with orphans on her trips to Malawi before and after the adoption of her son from there. She also interviews world leaders on the AIDS crisis and talks about the lessons she learned during her visits to Malawi. Overall, I think the intention of the movie was sincere, and there probably were younger Madonna fans in the audience who still may not be aware of the ongoing epidemic of AIDS in Africa.
The evening ended not with a Q & A session as audience members had hoped, but with a conversation between Madonna and Michael Moore and the director of the film who was once Madonna’s gardener and nanny. Let me recreate that conversation with my own dramatic interpretation– just know that the scene actually went on much longer in real life.
Moore: You’re so great.
Madonna: No, you are.
Moore: No, you are. The media are just so horrible to you.
Madonna: I know, but they are so much meaner to you.
Moore: You’re right, they are. But you’re my hero.
Madonna: No, you’re my hero.
Director/former gardener and nanny: I realize no one cares what I think, so I’ll just stand here.
End scene. No substantive dialogue about the heartbreaking issues of the film whatsoever.
But maybe I am expecting too much out of one evening.
The event raised money to help those in Malawi, and I have some great stories to tell, which is almost as good as pocketing some cold, hard cash for those tickets. Almost.