Aids Focus

Chinese Aids film moves film festival

2011-02-15 14:34

Special Report

Berlin - A heart-wrenching documentary about Aids sufferers in China and the discrimination they face in their daily lives has won a rapturous reception at the Berlin film festival.

Based on interviews and emails with a wide range of HIV positive people, director Zhao Liang said he hoped the film, Zai Yi Qi ("Together"), could change attitudes in China, where at least 740 000 suffer from the Aids virus.

Zhao used internet chat groups to track down many of his subjects, the vast majority of whom refused to show their face for fear of "letting their family down". Several declined to appear on camera at all.

The stories moved many in the audience to tears.

One 30-year-old drug user, known only as "Duckweed", explained how when she found out she had the virus, she planned to kill herself and her 4-year-old son, also infected.

"I couldn't see the point of living anymore, so I bought some rat poison and put it in our rice. My boy wanted to eat the rice straightaway," she said sobbing.

"But then I thought, 'how can I let him leave the world after only a few years of life?' I changed my mind, I threw the rice away."

Shame

Another interviewee plays a recording of his mother's reaction when he tells her he plans to appear in the documentary.

"How can you do this to the family? You're such a disappointment," she tells him. "This should not be exposed."

The three main characters are Hu Zetao, an 11-year-old boy, Liu Luping, his carer and Xia, a stand-in actor. All three worked on the set of a previous Chinese film about Aids, "'Til Death Do Us Part," by director Gu Changwei.

In this "film-within-a-film", Zhao shows how the discrimination against the HIV positive people on the set turns over time into compassion and affection.

At first, one elderly crew member, unaware there were HIV positive people on set, says: "Anyone with this sickness knows he should never say anything because otherwise people will keep their distance. I would keep my distance."

Another set member, upon learning his friend is HIV positive, suddenly cannot bring himself to look at him, prompting the jibe: "Don't worry, you can't get it from being stared at."

Zhao also takes the audience to Hu's home, where he lives with his father and stepmother after his mother died of Aids.

His family, unaware of how the virus can be transmitted, will not allow him to put his chopsticks in the dinner pot like everyone else and he has his own washing utensils.

Stigma

"The film tries to counter the discrimination and stigma that many Aids sufferers still face in China," Zhao told the audience after receiving a tumultuous reception.

"Before making this film, I knew very little about this disease and the goal is to make more Chinese people understand better how Aids is transmitted and how it affects sufferers," he added.

Experts say there is still a major gap in public knowledge about the virus in China, where it has overtaken rabies and tuberculosis as the country's leading cause of death among infectious diseases.

According to a recent poll of 6 000 people, nearly half thought it could be transmitted by mosquito and almost one in five believed they could catch it if an infected person sneezed on them.

The poll also suggested that the stigma attached to Aids was still rife, with around one-third saying that infected people "deserved" their condition because of drug use or their "promiscuous" sexual activities.

Discrimination

In one of the film's lighter moments, Hu explains his own unique way of dealing with discrimination.

"The neighbours in the village are scared of me. They keep their distance. So what I do is to seek out the ones that keep their distance most and run after them shouting 'I'm going to catch you and infect you'.

"Then they run really fast."

Though emotional in parts, the film is ultimately about the hope the sufferers have in a brighter future and their bravery in struggling against a wave of discrimination, on top of their debilitating condition.

Zhao said three of his subjects had decided to show their faces after all, in the hope it could boost understanding.

Xia, one of these, said: "If my face can help promote tolerance, then there is no need to cover it."

The film is screening out of competition at the Berlin film festival, which runs until February 20.

- AFP

Read more on:    china  |  hiv aids
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.