Target Audience

Youth and adults
Main Issues
Stigmatisation and discrimination

Film Outline

At a boisterous and urbane dinner party, Khalo Matabane recounts to his friends an apparently innocent story about how he met a beautiful woman, chatted her up and started going out with her on dates. When the woman discloses her HIV status, Khalo does not see her again. The story is intercut with Khalo’s examination of his own sexual history, brought up in a household of women. This film is an honest account of how the already complex nature of relating takes on new meaning in a time of sickness.

Questions For Discussion

  • What is the message of this film?
  • How did Khalo react when he learnt that his girlfriend was HIV
  • How could he have reacted differently?
  • Do you think Khalo’s ex-girlfriend acted responsibly? Can you understand her behaviour towards Khalo? Explain your response.
  • Should you inform your partner if you are HIV positive? How would you do it?


At a boisterous and urbane dinner party, Khalo Matabane recounts to his friends an apparently innocent story about how he met a beautiful woman, chatted her up and started going out with her on dates. His friends listen to the anecdote with great amusement – Khalo is a funny guy who tells a good story. He admits that although she wasn’t a rocket scientist, he wanted to go out with her just because she was so beautiful.

At certain moments in the tale, we cut away to scenes of Khalo sitting alone. He talks to the camera about his upbringing in a household of women. He describes himself as a studious child who was always carrying books, watching the escapades of his peers from the sidelines. He talks about his maturing attitudes to sex and how these were influenced by the strong women in his life. When he was sent to stay with his grandfather in the village, he didn’t want to know anything about initiation into a man’s world. 

Meanwhile, back at the dinner party, the story of the relationship moves towards the possibility of consummation. There is mock shock at his expectation of sleeping with her on the first date and commiseration when this in fact doesn’t happen. The woman spends the night with him but rebuffs his advances, saying she needs to sleep. The guests find this very funny.

To camera, Khalo relates that when he did bring girls back to his house as an adolescent, unlike his friends, he never made any advances for fear of rejection. This casts the dinner party story in a tragi-comic light.

However, the title and the ominous footage at the opening of the film, in which Khalo is on the phone trying to locate someone, suggest that all is not what it seems. This is not a simple story of a failed love affair.

Khalo finally tells his friends that, after repeatedly standing her up, the woman phones him and reveals her HIV-positive status. Her reticence is explained. The dinner party falls silent. The camera records the stunned look of shock on the guests’ faces as they digest this strategically timed piece of information. In a state of shock himself Khalo recounts how he did nothing to find her, overwhelmed by the idea of ‘death, death, death’.

In the final scene he is on the phone once more and learns that the woman has got married and gone away. He will probably never be able to talk to her. His feelings of remorse go unsaid.

Love in a Time of Sickness looks at the damage of HIV/AIDS from the point of view of human relationships, which are made even more complicated by the spectre of infection and the responsibilities it implies.

Director’s biography:

Khalo Matabane is an award winning filmmaker whose films about South Africa have brought him both national and international interest. He has been invited to workshops and festivals around the world. This year he has given creative writing courses at the National Electronic and Media Institute of Southern Africa.

His films include:

  • Young Lions (52 minutes, 1999), about three former youth activists who were at the centre of the struggle in the 1980’s. The Waiters (2 part series of 26 minutes, 1997) after the unbanning of political organisations, families waited for their beloved to return home. But some did not. The documentary looks at how the families sustain hope. 
  • Two Decades Still (52 minutes, 1996) looks at the 20 years after the 16th June 1976 uprisings in Soweto.
  • Poetic Conversations (26 minutes,1996) half hour profile on the black consciousness poet Ingoapele Madingoane

Director’s comments:

Love in a time of sickness is a personal film – an infatuation I had for this beautiful woman and her love for me. It’s a story of a young man’s sexual desire in these times of sickness. In telling the story of my relationship with her, it evoked a connection with my past, growing up in a village as a boy. At first the connection seems weird and impossible, but as the story of the girl progresses, the link becomes clearer. The story about the girl and the story about my childhood are actually one story. I am my past. The film is a tribute to the women who have loved me and also a recognition of the need for men to change.

The film is like a dream, moving through time and space. It’s a frightening vision of our time, these times of sickness. In this film love triumphs but this is not always so.


Production Company          

Day Zero Film & Video


Khalo Matabane


Laurence Dworkin                


  • Brand Jordaan    
  • Nina Kellgren        


Audrey Maurion            


President Kapa                

Professional Support          

Jennifer Fox