Thursday, January 15, 2015

"It's Not Over": Documentary by Andrew Jenks about HIV in South Africa, India, and the US Midwest

I found a second film by Andrew Jenks, “It’s Not Over” (2014), in which Jenks tracks the stories of several people in South Africa, Indiana, and India to combat HIV and AIDS.
The film has a long telling caption “Tell me, and I forget; Teach me and I may remember; Involve me and I will understand.”  At the end, Mr. Jenks says that it took a year to make the film, and he asks what comes next. Should a journalist cross the line and stay involved with the people on whom he reports?
Jenks is about eight years older than in the film I reviewed Jan.13.  The long-hair style works better before the camera, and he looks a little more commanding here.  What’s remarkable is the way he can interact with the people, rather than talk at them and film them.  (I’m reminded of “Blood Brother” with Rocky Braat, Feb. 16, 2014, as well as footage “The Mission in Belize”, “drama” blog Nov. 4. 2012, and even the video by Timo Descamps, “Tomorrow”, shot I think in India, reviewed on the “drama” blog March 27, 2014). There’s a scene in South Africa where he’s having an outdoor conversation and someone walks by and greets him.  He asks, “does he know me?”
The South African segment, in a township called Khayelitsha is visually the most striking.  I wondered about filming in South Africa now given the tremendous crime problems  (the film “Tell Me and I Will Forget”, reviewed here Feb. 4, 2014, and another story on my International blog, Dec. 30, 2014).  The extent of the shantytown is shocking, it must be five miles square at least. 
For India, Mr. Jenks lands in Mumbai, with a shot of the large hotel (remember there was a major attack there in 2008) and mixed with the people, going to Gay Pride Day, shortly after the Supreme Court in India had allowed the old sodomy law, a relic of 19th Century British colonialism, to be reinstated (most recent article here ).  The meets playwright Sarang Bhakre, who puts on a gay setting of “The Shanti Priya” or otherwise called “Dushyantpriya”. The film shows a few minutes of the play about a reunion. Jenks interviews a female prostitute in the red light district, and she says she has to make a living to feed her kids. Again, the film shows shantytowns in India. 
The Midwest US portion focuses on a female college student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, Paige Rawl (site ), born with HIV acquired from the mother, who got it from her husband who, according to the film, does not know how he was infected.  In the film, Jenks, Paige and two other young women go on a road trip to Nebraska in mid winter.
There is a moment where one of the women, riding in Jenks’s car, says that women don’t pass HIV to men as easily as men pass it to other men or to women.  That seems to be true, although not a reason for heterosexuals to be complacent.  But in the early 1980s, in Texas, the right wing tried to use this “chain letter” argument to put forth a bill to make the state sodomy law at the time quite draconian, banning gays from most occupations, although the bill did not get out of committee, thanks to effective lobbying by the Dallas Gay Alliance in the spring of 1983.  I was living in Dallas at the time and in the middle of the controversy with letter writing.  I cover this episode in Chapter 3 of my first "Do Ask, Do Tell" book and it would be well to cover this history in documentary film. 
The official site for the film is here. I watched the film on Netflix instant play.  It seems unrelated to the music video by Daughtry by the same name. 
Picture: Indianapolis, Aug. 2012, my trip.  

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