It’s Not Over
In honor of World AIDS Day, “It’s Not Over“, a feature length documentary film by award-winning film maker Andrew Jenks and is made possible by the MAC Aids Fund, the charitable arm of MAC Cosmetics, offers the global audience an inspiring look at how young people today are facing the challenges of HIV. I have seen a few films – local and international – that showcase lives of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, but rarely it is in popular culture especially in the contemporary times that there is a personal or inspiring story (see how the the docu is even titled) that humanizes this issue. I saw one quote recently that says ” HIV/AIDS has no boundaries” and while still, a lot of people see this disease as only from the eighties or a “gay disease”, there is a need to solve these misconceptions, single-faced representations and the fact that there is lack of talk or words about this to end this epidemic. Knowing is winning. But also, communicating this, especially to the youth, which is over 30% of all new infections, according to research, can eventually lead to an AIDS-free generation. And the film targets that by illustrating a deeply personal and uplifting story of three young people from different parts of the world who are living with or affected by HIV in vastly different, yet astonishingly inter-connected ways.
First, when I saw the invite by MAC Cosmetics to cover the event together with fellow beauty bloggers, I was focused on the title “Its Not Over” and the visuals sorrounding it – warm, personal, happy. I have watched a few films about this topic but I have never seen a positive imaging of people living with or affected by this disease.During the film showing at Greenbelt, we were told by MAC regarding the support they’ve given this documentary. I’ve been familiar with their cause – local and international, the campaigns (usually with celebrities and singers who are championing the charity) , and the products – the profits which are donated 100% os sale price – to make this CSR happen. But the initiative for this year is stronger and focused on communicating creatively the issue:
“Young people can end this epidemic, but to engage and motivate them toward this goal, we need to recognize that the era of PSAs and finger-wagging messages is gone. We’ve got to make them part of the solution, which we set out to do with this film,” said Nancy Mahon, Global Executive Director, the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund. “It’s Not Over represents the latest bold, creative strategy from the M∙A∙C AIDS Fund as we look to engage young people in impactful, meaningful, action-oriented ways to end the AIDS epidemic.”
As viewer, I was taken on a journey, all over the world with Andrew Jenks (above), and shown an insider look at how real people struggle or live with the disease. In South Africa, Jenks meets Lucky Mfundisi.
“A teacher and mentor, Lucky is working to keep young South Africans out of the type of trouble that he ran into at an early age. Lucky acts as a tour guide around Khayelitsha, the largest and fastest growing township in South Africa with some of the highest rates of HIV in the country. As Andrew follows him to work and around his hometown, Lucky emanates an exuberance and zeal for life that is an inspiring celebration of the efforts of a single, committed individual.”
From Lucky’s story, I learned that even in places where almost 8-9 out of 10 people are living with the disease, there is just silence. And it is dangerous. People just don’t know. And they don’t talk. Despite how important words are in solving this issue.
In the documentary, Lucky and Andrew talked to a lot of people who were willing to share their stories. According to the film, it was rare for people to do this in their place. An interviewee even said that such act of asking questions already asserts care and concern for them. With the interviews and series of questions and questions, which according to Lucky, is how he was raised by his parents – asking and knowing and asking again – the film asserted the importance of doing so because HIV after all, as an issue, is relative to different people and in different parts of the world.
Then there is “Paige from the US, who is a college freshman who has been living with HIV her entire life. After years of battling stigma, she has come full circle, becoming a young advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and using her experience to challenge assumptions and prejudice. Andrew first meets Paige at a dance marathon at her college in Indiana before taking off with Paige and her two roommates for an impromptu road-trip.”From Paige, there is the strength and determination of championing the youth. And of life – living normally, happily, healthily and inspiringly with HIV.
The third story is from Sarang’s in India, where homosexuality is outlawed. “Come along for the ride as Sarang’s new play, addressing gay marriage, makes its way from rehearsal to public debut. While in India, Andrew also meets Sarang’s boyfriend, witnesses the personal stories of HIV+ orphans, and experiences the staggering poverty of the infamous Falkland Road.”
From Sarang is the realization that setting matters. In their country, compared to Paige’s, health care is even stratified. There is a certain viral level of HIV+ people which will dictate if they will be allowed/given medications by their government. In their country, homosexuals are considered “criminals”. But despite all these, Sarang rises and fights for equal rights, treatment and respect.
“UNAIDS welcomes the film and calls upon young people around the world to mobilize around its vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. Globally, an estimated 5 million adolescents and young people (ages 10-24) were living with HIV in 2013. Millions of young people living with HIV do not know they have the virus. Every day approximately 1,800 adolescents and young people become infected with HIV, accounting for nearly 31 percent of all new HIV infections. “
Overall, it is one inspiring and great film about the different aspects of the disease, life and importance of words that will fight the stigma and the silence that hinder prevention and cure. Locally, the Philippines has a fast growth rate of people living with HIV (with high percentage coming from LGBT community). As member of STRAP or Society of Transsexual Women of the Philippines, there is definitely a need to talk and converse with the community and dig deeper into the issue.
“Young people will lead us to an AIDS-free generation. By ensuring adolescents and young people are aware of and have access to HIV services, we are not only saving lives, but also investing in a healthier future for generations to come,” said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS.
Since the release, Netflix, the world’s largest global streaming platform, is hosting the film for viewers worldwide, and SnagFilms, a leader in high-quality free film content, is making it available through its applications on Roku®, Xbox™, Sony® and more. Heard that it will be available in iTunes next year, so you can download it and watch. You can also join the conversation with the hash tag #ItsNotOver