Los Angeles Times Examines Challenges Of Making Documentary Film About HIV-Positive Children In China

2006 June 14  |  Kaiser Network
The Los Angeles Times on Saturday examined the challenges filmmakers Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon faced in making a documentary about children living with HIV/AIDS in China's Anhui province. The filmmakers had to "break through China's bureaucratic brick walls and cultural barriers" to reach the children, "probing sensitive subjects in a society that puts a stigma on publicly discussing its pain," the Times reports. The difficulty of raising funds to produce the film "almost killed the venture," according to the Times, and potential investors found the topic "too hot to handle," Lennon said. The "breakthrough" came in 2003 during the SARS outbreak, when Chinese health officials realized they must "become more open on internal issues that could affect global health," according to the Times. The filmmakers were able to secure funding -- as well as access to information on HIV/AIDS in China -- for their film. When Yang met Zhang Ying, an HIV/AIDS advocate working with orphans in the Yingzhou District of Anhui, the filmmakers found a "vehicle to tell their story," the Times reports. Since Zhang was well-known in the village, the filmmakers were able to interview local officials about the impact of the disease, and eventually the Chinese government gave the filmmakers a "tacit nondisapproval" for their project, according to Lennon (Glionna, Los Angeles Times, 6/10). The Chinese government estimates that there are 650,000 HIV-positive people in the country, 75,000 of whom have developed AIDS. According to the government, in 2005 there were 70,000 new cases of HIV and 25,000 AIDS-related deaths, and the country's current HIV/AIDS prevalence is approximately 0.05% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/8). The film, called "The Blood of Yingzhou District," will be screened on Wednesday as part of the Washington, D.C., annual Silverdocs Documentary Film Festival (Los Angeles Times, 6/10).
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