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Whose taken a film class at UCLA? This presentation was born from a discussion on how imagery in film, even imagery that isn’t directly related to HIV/AIDS, can help reinforce stigmatising ideas about disease. Ex. Vampirism has been used as an allegory for infectious diseases in numerous films, and the themes of the vampire genre - fear of “the other” who comes in the night to infect innocent people with a bloodborne disease. However, this begs the question:
Is there a way for film to do the opposite?
The approach of participatory film production is applied to explore issues affecting marginalised and vulnerable people and communities. It enables them to put their own stories into short documentary films. Training of Facilitator programmes imparts skills to use film as a tool for advocacy and peer group learning. Facilitated film screenings are used to engage with the broader community.
“It was clear from the outset that the films had to be made by filmmakers from the region, thus providing an opportunity for aspiring and established filmmakers to tell their stories. During the Southern African International Film and TV Market of 2000 (Sithengi), a call was made for stories that were ‘provocative, humorous and brave — unusual stories about life affected by AIDS and which would show the incredible struggle to avert the tragedy.’ Over the next year the films were selected, work-shopped, and produced.”
We recognize that the construction of meaning in films is a dynamic process that takes place on the fault-lines between film conception, production and reception. While filmmakers certainly have the power to direct the gaze of viewers, audience members contribute to, and often extend, the intended impact and meaning of a film.
HO EA RONA (WE ARE GOING FORWARD) IS A SHORT FILM ABOUT FOUR FRIENDS: THABISO WAS A NATIONAL BOXER; THABO, KNOWN TO HIS FRIENDS AS KWASA KWASA, IS A DJ; BIMBO, A TRUE INTELLECTUAL, IS A MAN OF SHORT SENTENCES; AND MOALOSI AN AIDS ACTIVIST. ALL FOUR ARE HIV+. THEY MEET TO REFLECT ON THEIR LIVES, TO CRY, TO REMINISCE – BUT ALSO, MOST IMPORTANTLY, TO LAUGH.
The documentary films in the STEPS collection can play a major role in breaking the silence that leads to stigma, discrimination, and death. It is hoped that this study will inspire HIV/AIDS activists, educators, counselors, and concerned citizens to use the films wherever they can, and spread the message that “actually, life is a beautiful thing.”
STEPS demonstrates that filmcan be an important tool in helping to combat stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS as well as other social issues. However, the also acknowledges that it is fundamentally important to empower people with the tools to tell their own stories rather than simply telling their stories for them… Unless you want to win best picture at the Oscars.
HIV in Film: STEPS For the Future
STEPS For The Future
Can film be used to
perceptions related to
Steps For The
● Created in 2001
● 50 Films
● 18 Languages
● Produced in Southern Africa
History of Steps
- The program was created by South African Filmmaker Don
- Employed the help of international filmmakers.
- Focused on supporting filmmakers from the Southern
● Baseline questionnaire to gauge
knowledge about HIV/AIDS
given before screenings.
● Follow-up interviews 2 weeks
after each screening.
● Also interviewed people who
benefited from hearing about
the films, but did not watch
● Personal Narratives in the films
stimulate dialogue and debate.
● Films challenge preconceived
notions about HIV/AIDS
● Films help audiences to
incorporate new ways of coping
with the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Feedback from Screenings
● “It was the first time that I had seen someone say “I am HIV positive”, not just in the
movie, but actually being there and saying it like that.”
● “I think that their being there after the movie made all the difference because people
need to see so that they can believe.”
● “The films are important because they make people believe, otherwise I think some people
would still not believe this thing (HIV/AIDS) exists.”
● “I told my friend who is usually not interested in HIV/AIDS because he says that this
thing doesn’t exist...When I told him about what we saw the other day when you came,
he showed an interest in seeing the movies.”