The passing landscapes prickled our expectations, “Will we actually find people worth making a documentary about?’ And will it even be safe filming in Zimbabwe?
Written by Philip du Plessis.
We didn’t have the faintest clue about what awaited us on the other side of our 2,500 km expedition. But this didn’t stop Archie, Stephan and myself to embrace this project with all fours.
It was a matter of days before our departure that we received the news that Blindspot had won an international bid to produce a documentary about young people living with HIV. In the run-up towards the big announcement, we had to compile a soul-devoted presentation that placed us head-on-head with a European film production company. But it was our second presentation that finally clinched the deal – one that entailed an epic mission of uncertainty.
The brief? To make a documentary that challenges dominant stereotypes facing young people living with HIV. Initiated by 12 young Zimbabwean advocates, and supported by the Amsterdam-based NGO, Aidsfonds, we were the lucky ones to produce this documentary. Our first stop: Harare.
Upon arrival in Zimbabwe’s capital, the border-post interrogations were still spinning in our heads, “Whatever you do, you are not allowed to film in this country” the border official firmly instructed me while punching a “suspicious visitor” stamp in my passport. This stamp allowed any official to search me during our three week stay in Zimbabwe.
In the coming days we noticed Zimbabweans to have a subdued public spirit, but as when we met-up with the 12 advocates in Harare, they showed us nothing less than a stirring sense of soulfulness. We were welcomed with song, swept up in traditional dance an eventually came to rest in a circle underneath a colossal Jacaranda tree.
There we learned that 6.6% of young women between the ages 15-24 years, and 4.1% of men within the same age bracket were living with HIV. Even more problematic, prejudice are still thrown their way. Sitting underneath that tree, the youngsters also told us about the way in which Aidsfonds is supporting them to effectively advocate for policies that ensure proper access to necessary services. In this way promoting positive health, dignity and prevention of HIV.
But to get to this point of empowerment, these young advocates have treaded a most treacherous path. One demands resilience and ironically, a good sense of humor. So what followed underneath the Jacaranda tree was extraordinary. One by one the youngsters mustered up their courage and bared open their heart by sharing with us their most vulnarable journey with HIV. And while hanging on their words, they gently invited us into their lives.
Two days later we embarked on a three week expedition through Zimbabwe where we filmed the stories of four ordinary radicals. So without further ado, I present to you the first story within this four part documentary. Namely, The Story of Cathy.
Client: Aidsfonds | Produced by Blindspot Films
Production management: Philip du Plessis | Camera operator Stephan Fourie & Philip du Plessis | Sound operator: Archie Leeming | Edit: Stephan Fourie | Sound design: Rhyno Jansen | Music composition: Wayne Simpson