A FIGHTING SPIRIT 00:28:39
Youth and adults
Stigmatisation and discrimination
A national hero turns public enemy when he confesses his tragic secret. Gilbert Josamu, Zimbabwean middle -weight boxing champion, discovered he was HIV positive at the height of his career. Living in a society where HIV/AIDS is taboo, Josamu forged his medical certificate and continued to pursue his career. Just months before he died, Josamu finally confessed to having lived with HIV for 14 years. The public outrage that followed forced him into his toughest fight yet -the battle for acceptance. This is a story told by those who are still alive.
Questions For Discussion
- What is the message of this film?
- What do you think of the way Gilbert acted once he’d discovered he was HIV positive?
- Do you think it is more difficult for people in public positions to disclose their HIV status? Why? Why not?
- Should well-known people disclose their status to help destigmatise HIV/AIDS and act as positive role-models?
Gilbert Josamu was born into the tough, ghetto settlement of Mbare on the outskirts of Harare, where fighting is a way of life. He was introduced to boxing by his brother George and quickly realized that the sport could be his passport to success.
Determined to be an international boxing champion, Josamu won the Zimbabwean Middleweight National title within two years of going professional. This was 1986, a time when other Zimbabwean boxers were doing badly in the international arena, and Zimbabweans quickly pinned their hopes for international recognition on him. His fans were euphoric when he was offered crack at the Commonwealth title that same year.
Yet in a routine medical test Josamu tested positive for HIV. With no one to turn to but his family, and living in a society where HIV/AIDS was taboo and perceived as a disease for white homosexuals, Josamu decided to fight back the only way he knew how: he forged his medical certificate and continued to pursue his career.
Josamu’s brother, George, tells of his internal conflict as he continued to box knowing he was endangering the lives of his opponents. When he finally came clean on November 5, 2000, his fans and the boxing fraternity around the world were shocked and outraged.
Depressed, angry and lonely, Josamu formed an AIDS support group to help him and others deal with the public’s response to people living with HIV. He also embarked on a public campaign to encourage people to disclose their positive status and he delivered his life testimony to communities with tremendous results.
The director and narrator, Leo Phiri, befriended Josamu in the months before he died and agreed to tell his story.
In the film, Phiri speaks to Josamu’s brother, who has lost three members of his family to HIV; to Ambrose Mlilo, Josamu’s opponent who fought and defeated him in a national title fight whilst Josamu was already HIV-positive; to his manager, Philip Chiyangwa; and to local sportswriter, Phil Magwaza, to whom Josamu gave the exclusive on his disclosure.
Leo Phiri has seven years of film experience mainly working on feature films and commercials as an assistant director for local and international production companies, which include Carlton television (UK), JBA Productions (Paris), and Nova Films Italy. Film credits include Idrissa Ouedraogo’s Kini & Adams and Raoul Peck’s Lumumba. A Fighting Spirit is Leo’s debut as a director.
Briefly describe what your film is essentially about?
My film A Fighting Spirit essentially explores the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, how its effects lead to a man concealing his HIV status for a very long time and how his disclosure fourteen years later has changed people’s attitudes towards HIV/AIDS.
What was your experience in the making of your film?
Just before we commenced filming my main character who had been living positively with AIDS for the last 14 years died from an opportunistic illness. This made me realise that HIV/AIDS is definitely amongst us but moreover I feel inspired by the optimism shown by other characters in that they are living positively with HIV/AIDS.
How would you describe your film in the context of HIV/AIDS?
Disclosure of one’s HIV status plays a fundamental role in the fight against HIV/AIDS, acceptance of one’s status by the society and more importantly by the person infected creates a harmonious atmosphere for positive living.
Please provide any further comments relevant to the film project?
The role played by prominent figures and personalities in society in the fight against HIV/AIDS will go a long way in the realization of the acceptance of HIV/AIDS in our society.
- Pedro Pimenta
- Niels Pagh Andersen