A RED RIBBON AROUND MY HOUSE 00:26:19
Youth and adults
Stigmatisation and discrimination
A mother and daughter are in crisis because of their different responses to AIDS. Pinky, flamboyant and loud, lets everyone know she is HIV-positive. But her daughter, Ntombi, is battling to be just like everyone else. Her mother’s courageous and touching refusal to be quiet or passive in the face of AIDS, sets them apart. Pinky acknowledges the difficulties her openness poses for her daughter, but makes no apology. Throughout it all, her sense of humour and life are apparent. We leave the film with Pinky doing what she does best -living.
Questions For Discussion
- Pinky was infected through a blood transfusion. How else can you be infected with HIV?
- What are the challenges Pinky faces in disclosing her HIV status?
- Why do you think her daughter reacts in the way she does every time Pinky discloses her status and talks openly about condoms? Who do you sympathise with?
- How important is it for parents to talk openly about sex and HIV/AIDS?
- Why does the doctor encourage Pinky to stop drinking?
- Pinky has been infected with HIV for seven years and she is living positively. How can people with HIV live healthy lives?
Pinky is an engaging heroine. We meet her first at home, amongst her many extroverted outfits, which she uses to embrace her enjoyment of life. We see her doing her AIDS outreach work with humour and honesty, whether it be challenging adults to admit that anal sex is a part of their sex lives, or dancing with schoolchildren while teaching them condom use.
Then we meet Ntombi, who is struggling to reconcile her love for her mother with her need to fit in with society’s norms and values. She understands the importance of her mother’s outreach work, but doesn’t want it to be her mother doing the work. She is uncomfortable with her mother’s aggressive need to disclose her HIV status. We learn that it has cost her a boyfriend, that it affects how people react to her in the streets, that her own response would be to keep her HIV status a secret until the grave.
Yet she still asks her mother to speak to her church gathering about AIDS. She implores her not to disclose her status or talk about condoms. Pinky of course holds nothing back, and the church minister responds by saying Christians should not use condoms.
Ntombi cannot reconcile a Christian’s belief in the healing power of God, with her mother’s act of disclosure, which to her seems to admit there will be no healing. Ntombi is upset. We understand that Ntombi’s difficulty with her mother’s openness is rooted in her unwillingness to accept the inevitability of her mother’s death and the loss that it will entail for her. We are aware of her continued love for her mother in spite of the difficulties posed by her mother’s openness.
The subplot of the film is Pinky’s drive to continue to live life to the full in spite of her illness. We hear of her rejection by a number of burial societies, and her acceptance by one group. We meet her husband and friends, who are quietly supportive. We see her enjoying drinks with friends, but learn that this is potentially life-threatening when she has to go to hospital. We learn from Ntombi herself how Pinky pushes her way into families to tend the dying, washing them, caring for them until the end.
Pinky acknowledges the difficulties her openness poses for her daughter, but makes no apology. We attend a funeral with Pinky, and she talks of her own funeral. Throughout it all, her sense of humour and life are apparent. We leave the film with Pinky doing what she does best – living.
Portia Rankoane is fluent in five South African languages. She has published poetry and short stories, and her photographic work has been represented at a number of exhibitions. She has been involved in film for the last five years, in positions varying from researcher, to camera person, to editor. A red Ribbon around my House is her directorial debut.
For me this film is about fighting the stigma of AIDS in conservative black society. I found the making of the film emotionally taxing – I had to ask very difficult questions. Often I would not be able to sleep at night thinking of the questions I had to ask the next day. But this family is so amazing; often they broached the difficult subjects of sex and death without me having to prompt them.
An audience will definitely learn from this film and the family portrayed in it, as we all have our own myths about AIDS that will be challenged by it. Most of all, this film, through its hero Pinky, shows the vibrancy of life even in the shadow of death.
Michael Brian Waugh