Madonna's Latest Transformation: Crusading Filmmaker

It's edging up on midnight. But even on a Tuesday night at film festival time in Cannes the town is still hopping, packed with the people who make movies, the people who want to make movies and the people who like to hang out with them.

Far above the sidewalk leaning over the top balcony of the famed Carlton Hotel is a woman the world knows by one name: Madonna. Parties are not high on her agenda for this trip. She's in the South of France to show her new documentary, "I Am Because We Are," a solemn chronicle of the one million AIDS orphans in Malawi.

There couldn't be two more different worlds that Cannes and Malawi. Madonna — as she has done so often — embraces the extremes.

"There's something beautiful about it," she told "Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden. "On the one hand you can see that Cannes represents superficiality, but so let's bring some reality into it. There's a lot of people here that I think would like to feel inspired by more than the gown they're wearing or the famous person sitting next to them."

Madonna talked about one of the inspirations that led to the making of the film. How did the Material Girl end up in one of the poorest nations on earth, a decidedly non-material place, adopting a child and making a film?

"I guess it happened at a time in my life where I was just dialed into the frequency of wanting to do something that wasn't just concentrate on my career and family and I wanted to go outside of that," she said.

'I'm Not Thinking About My Birthday'

As she approaches her 50th birthday, Madonna said she's not thinking about it.

"F**k you. I'm 50. That's what I'm going to say when I turn 50. Sorry."

"Why's everyone rushing me over the finish line?" she said. "No, I'm not thinking about my birthday. I'm thinking about what I'm going to eat for dinner tonight. That's my future plan."

Still, the star said that she's "very happy" with her life and doesn't compete with her younger self.

"If I didn't feel good and wasn't doing what I wanted to do with my life, maybe [turning 50] would bother me," she said. "But I feel good about what I'm doing. I feel like in a way it's given me a feeling of accomplishment for living this long and to still be able to do what I want to do and feel as good as I do. It's a blessing."

Speaking about her photo spread in the May issue Vanity Fair magazine (she graces the cover), Madonna said, "I like the way I look better now. My thighs aren't as chubby. I'm not kidding. I'm being perfectly honest with you. …I see myself as practical and handsome and useful. I don't think of myself as a great beauty. But I think of myself as stylish."

"I look thinner naked," she added. "Don't ask. It's weird."

She acknowledged that there's a double standard when it comes to women's ages; that more is being made of her age than that of male rock stars such as Sting (56), Mick Jagger (64), Billy Joel (59), or David Bowie (61).

"I don't think we live in just a sexist society, we live in an ageist society, connected to women," she said. "I think women in an unconscious way are valued for their youth, youthful beauty, not so much for their wisdom and experience. Hopefully, we're going to change all that."

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