A LUTA CONTINUA (The Struggle Continues) 00:26:28
Youth and adults
Advocacy and activism
“HIV is not a death sentence!” say the HIV+ group from Khayelitsha. They tell their stories in a series of short films which are then screened at taxi ranks and shopping malls in Cape Town’s townships. This powerful film about courage in the face of death includes footage of the group process, the short films themselves and their public screenings. Although they were too young to be part of the struggle against apartheid, they face a new struggle in their lifetime. They decide to call the film A Luta Continua -the struggle continues.
Questions For Discussion
- What is the message of this film?
- What do you know about treatment for HIV/AIDS?
- What do you know about the availability of medical treatment?
- Mathew says, ‘Once you speak out, you don’t feel the pain of being HIV positive.’ How important do you think it is to disclose your status if you are HIV positive?
- ‘The previous struggle has been won, that is the freedom one. But we still must go on fighting because we haven’t got the real freedom. We are not free yet as long as we are still living with HIV/AIDS.’ How do you feel about this statement?
A group of township AIDS activists affiliated to the Treatment Action Campaign embark on a project to use video as part of their outreach work. They make a series of three short Public Service Announcements dealing with:
- The need for a national mother-to-child HIV prevention programme;
- The need for treatment to create and openness as an essential ingredient for the success of prevention campaign;
- The right of all people with HIV/AIDS to be given the chance to use anti-retroviral therapy when this is appropriate for them.
We follow members of the group through the process of making and exhibiting these short videos. On the way they take us into their personal backgrounds and experiences with HIV and offer a political perspective on the AIDS crisis. Footage from the short films themselves are cut together with excerpts from an activists’ meeting and scenes of the individuals in and around their homes talking directly to camera. A vivid picture of four courageous people grows from these interwoven multiple sources.
Mathews is 28 years old and lives in a sophisticated shack on a very busy township street. A self-styled ladies’ man, he is very well-known and liked in the community. Mathews confronts and acknowledges the fact that he knowingly infected other people after his diagnosis and he explains how he has come to terms with this. Mathews explains his attitude was due to denial on his part and lack of counselling. He admits that he doubted HIV existed. He recalls the particular sense of unreality surrounding his diagnosis which led him to continue with unsafe sex. He tells us how he started to become sick with recurrent STDs. Aware of the need for treatment, he joined the Treatment Action Campaign. Being active in the community has helped him understand and take control of his disease. Now he is a real positive person. He still has lots of girlfriends but he always uses a condom every time…
Busisiwe is in her early 30s. She lives in a really poor shack on a sandy dune in a new township. She relates that she knew HIV existed, but she ignored the problem, admitting how difficult it is to remain faithful to one man. The death of her baby daughter and the realisation of her HIV status radically changed her attitude to life.
Nomandla, who is in her early 20s and lives in Khyalitsha, talks about having a positive son, a little boy of about three years old. She knew about the Mother-to-Child Transmission Prevention programme in Khyelitsha – yet she didn’t volunteer.
Nontsikelelo lives in a shack off Landsdowne road. She has been seriously ill and is now taking anti-retrovirals. She talks about watching her partner die from thrush and other complications and about getting sick herself.
These personal stories form the basis of the Public Service Announcements and illustrate the messages they seek to get across. They function both as testaments to the dangers of denial and as pleas for a treatment action plan for people living with HIV/AIDS which will consequently encourage disclosure and sexual honesty as a means of prevention.
The scenes of public reaction at the Nyanga Junction Shopping Mall show how effective the videos are. As the director, Jack Lewis, states, “The intensity of the reaction to the videos in the malls where we screened them shows the impact of something like this can have in encouraging members of the public to open up and articulate their ideas and experiences of HIV/AIDS. Looking at the continually changing crowds that gathered to view the big screens and the willingness of members of the public to talk about personal stuff like sex – given the example and stimulus of the screens – there can be no doubt that using video in this way is effective.”
The message of A Luta Continua becomes increasingly political. Nomandla says that they were the ones who voted for Thabo Mbeki, yet he doesn’t appear to care about the people. The government spends money on arms. She points out that soon there will be nobody to use them, as many soldiers are HIV-positive. It is only the hope that one day the government will provide treatment that keeps Busisiwe going. As if there were any doubt, Nontsikelelo affirms that “I am poor and black and I’m using the drugs and they are working for me.”
The film concludes with the TAC choir, The Generics, in a studio, recording their CD of old struggle songs. They have cut a CD which is used as the sound track for the film. These are songs being sung on the streets at protests and pickets. Most of them are adaptations of 1970s and 80s struggle songs which have been rewritten to suit the needs of this new struggle. The title of the documentary, A Luta Continua / The Struggle Continues, was decided upon by the group, who consider the struggle against HIV/AIDS as a continuation of the freedom struggle. Viva!
Producer/director Jack Lewis’ documentaries, made by his production company Idol Pictures, have been broadcast locally and shown at numerous international film festivals. He has made several films on HIV/AIDS, including Beat It! Your Guide to Better Living with HIV/AIDS (produced and directed, 22 parts X 25 mins each, 1999/2000 for eTV).
Die Duiwel Maak My Hart So Seer: Children Speak (55 min. 1993 for SABC 3. Dir: Zackie Achmat. Prod. Jack Lewis) won first prize at the International Forum for Child Welfare in the Programmes for Public Screening category and an award for direction at the NTVA awards.
His work has covered sexuality and gender issues, youth education, housing, programmes on land grants for the Department of Land Affairs, and language programmes for The National Language Project. For full details of his films: www.idol.co.za
For me this project has been an experiment in democratizing the use of video through using big screens in places like malls, clinics etc. The intention is to establish an infrastructure where groups like this can use the power of video to take their own messages to a mass audience. The group has been marvelously committed and giving. We had been meeting regularly planning and conceptualizing this project since it was first announced last December. At times it seemed as though it would never come together. But when it did everyone pulled their weight to get through what was a very technically difficult and demanding schedule.
A grassroots activists movement based on the demands of HIV-positive people for treatment now exists in South Africa. This movement rivals and possibly surpasses the great movement around Act Up in the United States in the 1980s and early 90s. This documentary is not a comprehensive document of the South African movement. Instead it probes deeply into the lives of some of the people who have made that movement. It shows the courage, even heroism of these people as they challenge the circumstances of the HIV/AIDS crisis and draw deeply on the traditions of struggle against apartheid in this new struggle.
- David Aenmey
- Peter Baker
The Generics (TAC Choir)