Documentaries are among the most preeminent forms of learning. Melding visuals with the amusement of storytelling, documentaries weave truths together to inform and entertain. Though there are a bevy of subjects covered by documentaries, the medium is also being used to educate the world about the global AIDS crisis.
While the following three films are only a brief selection, they reflect the myriad of countries afflicted with AIDS. Each documentary reflects a different country and the different problems each faces.
1. Blood Brother
The documentary starts with footage of a young Indian girl dying. Her body is limp and her eyes are void of life as her father tries to take her to the hospital. While this would seem to be the start of a morose film, “Blood Brother” is anything but. The film follows Rocky, a native Ohioan, to Chennai, India. Having already been to India on a volunteering trip, he brought his filmmaking friend, Steven, to see the children with whom he fell in love.
The children live in an AIDS orphanage in a small rural village. Many have contracted the disease from their parents. For sickly children, though, they lead vivacious lives. There are many sad, trying stories, including a family whose father committed suicide after his wife got the AIDS diagnosis.
Rocky routinely cares for the children’s wound and sores. He has unconditional love for these orphans, many of whom are ostracized by the village after AIDS stigmatizes them.
Though the film largely focuses on Rocky’s rapport with the children and the struggles of living with this disease, there’s an undeniable celebration of life.
2. The Blood of Yingzhou District
Set in the Heshing Province in China, this documentary by a Hong Kong filmmaker follows several poor families who were affected by the epidemic.
Some children have AIDS passed on from their parents, others are orphans from the disease, yet both are equally stigmatized. Children like Nan Nan and Gao Jun are alienated from their extended families for fear of the impact AIDS might have.
Many of these rural villages are full of myths about AIDS. The populations are generally uneducated on the subject and the manner of transmission.
The Fu’ai Charity helps children like Gao Jun be placed in foster homes and creates a sense of family for these otherwise ostracized children. Introducing them to other HIV positive people helps to form a community and Gao Jun shows progression with the attention and contact.
3. Tapestries of Hope (Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse)
While by far the most graphic on this list, “Tapestries of Hope” chronicles a rape survivor’s journey to visit the women and girls of Girl Child Network. Located in Zimbabwe, a population decimated by AIDS, many of these girls were raped as children and contracted the disease.
Zimbabwe is hotspot for HIV/AIDS for two main reasons. Firstly, unauthorized traditional healers have perpetuated the myth that having sex with a virgin will cure the disease. Secondly, sanctions on the nation have prohibited access to treatment drugs.
Not only is there an HIV pandemic, but also a rash of violence against women that has not been properly addressed.
While rehabilitating and healing the girls, Girl Child Network is fighting against the decades-old myth to protect girls and enact justice for them.
These three films just show individual facets of the global AIDS epidemic. Poorer, rural areas are particularly afflicted because of the inaccessibility of many medications and the urban myths that prevail. Combating the ostracism and stigma associated with AIDS is just as important as combating the disease. The documentaries shed light on the people living with the disease and after watching these films echo a common plea to raise awareness.
Note: All of these films are available for viewing on Netflix.