Powerful film brings AIDS issues to communities in Democratic Republic of Congo
16 June 2008
When we talk about AIDS we often look at the sobering statistics such as the estimated number of 22.5 million people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa in 2007.
But behind each number is a human face and an actual person whose life is affected in a very direct way by the disease. A pioneering film series made in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) aims to bring the issue of AIDS directly to communities in a way that people can easily relate to.
Echoing the culture of oral story-telling which is deeply rooted in African tradition, the first episode of the series “Mon histoire” is named after the narrator and central character Papy. Based on a true story, the actors speak in Lingala, one of the official languages of DRC, and the cast are all Congolese. In this way, the film’s young director Djo Tunda Wa Munga hopes the film would touch people directly rather than be a passive viewing experience.
“Papy” is hard-hitting and aims to make an impact on audiences to cut through complacency towards AIDS send a strong prevention message while empowering people living with HIV to stand up and speak out in their own voices. With familiar and realistic images of how life can be if you are diagnosed with HIV, the film could encourage more people to have voluntary counseling and testing.
Djo Munga collaborated closely with Congolese non-governmental organizations and networks of people living with HIV during the planning and making of the film. Believing these films have the power to transform, German agency for technical cooperation (GTZ), Belgian agency for technical cooperation (BTC) and the King Baudouin Foundation have supported the project financially and with marketing support.
"Stories – such as “Papy” – that are told through local languages speak to audiences in a very direct way. Films are a good way to answer the questions people have about AIDS and help to communicate prevention messages. By doing this they have a strong role in changing individual behaviour,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Dr Peter Piot.
In the presence of the Congolese Health Minister, the film was premiered in Kinshasa 22 September 2007, followed by a European premier in Brussels four days later attended by local and international media. Since then, it has been screened at International Film Festivals in Namur, Paris, Montreal, Abidjan and Cannes and in provinces across Congo as well as broadcast on national and regional television channels.
The public viewings in DRC have been a huge success, taking place in town centres in front of audiences of up to 1200 people which were followed by a public discussion with provincial authorities, civil society and community members.
To enable the film and its message to reach an even wider audience, BTC has funded its distribution to organizations across Congo in DVD format with sub-titles in Swahili, Tshiluba, French and Kikongo, commonly-spoken languages in the region. And in partnership with GTZ, an evaluation by questionnaire will be conducted among the local organizations with they work. CTB has also supported a radio version of Papy in Lingala, Tshiluba, Kikongo, Swahili and French which will be broadcast by among others Radio Okapi.
Future plans include more mobile screenings across DRC to reach more remote parts of the country, with the support of the World Bank.
For more information about this project contact Denis Haveaux, UNAIDS Liaison Office to the European Union
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