Alexander Payne
Director of "About Schmidt", "Election", "Citizen Ruth"

"I loved, loved, loved your film. Wonder, appreciation of cinematic beauty, then shock and a different kind of wonder, and finally a new appreciation of the beauty of cinema to inform importantly."

Tim Latorre

"A heart-wrenching documentary…to great effect McLeod uses haunting interview photography juxtaposed with vibrant video of the woman's homeland, Ghana, to create an intimate, yet confrontational tone."

RES Media Group, April 08, 2003
Holly Willis

While her topic may spark shivers of horror among many viewers, Sandy McLeod's short documentary Asylum is a powerful, dramatic tale chronicling a young African woman's tragic entanglement in the choking threads of politics and culture.

The frequently stunning 20-minute award-winning short centers on Baaba Andoh, who sets out to find her long lost father and seek his blessing for her imminent marriage. She finds her dad, but instead of sanctioning the marriage, he has other, extremely unpleasant plans -- not only does he try to force her to marry another man, but he also tries to have her circumcised according to a bloody, life-threatening custom that's now illegal in Andoh's home of Ghana, but which is still practiced.

For obvious reasons, Andoh bolts. Her very powerful father tries to find her, and it soon becomes clear that Andoh's only recourse is to seek asylum in the U.S. Little does she know that "asylum" here often means years in prison, otherwise delicately known as "detention."

McLeod, who has produced numerous music videos and worked in the film industry for more than two decades, says that she decided to make the film after meeting Andoh. "I was so impressed with her quiet strength," she says, and indeed, the film's most powerful moments are those in which cinematographer Ellen Kuras shows us Andoh's face as she recounts her painful story.

"It was very important to me that Baaba tell the story in her own words," continues McLeod, "for her to make sense of that story for others." McLeod intercuts Andoh's recollection with colorful images shot in Ghana, counterpointing her increasingly desperate fear with jubilant street scenes. While intensely dark in its portrait of the utter destruction of one woman's life, this terrific film makes its point without preaching or wallowing in statistics, and in the end inspires not passive despair but activist outrage.

Asylum screened most recently at Aspen ShortsFest, where it earned a Best Documentary nod.

About RES
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Austin Chronicle March 15, 2003
Marc Savlov

Opening short, Asylum, which recounts a young woman's flight from ritual mutilation in her native Ghana, is brutal and unnerving, with Mcleod lap-dissolving from her subject to the Ghanaian streets and back, with terror and dismay always a few steps behind.

National Public Radio
Howie Movshovitz

"[ASYLUM, was one of two documentaries that] got beyond the usual and demonstrates that film is, in fact, a distinct way of seeing the world. A short about female circumcision…[ASYLUM] is simply a monologue by a refugee woman from Ghana, but the images that go with the interview are never literal-they're more like analogues to her talk, images of her sense of herself, images that use film to deepen and add texture to the woman's words."