Monday November 24, 2014

HIV doc makes Sask debut

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A unique opportunity to learn about life with HIV through film is being offered in Yorkton.

The Saskatchewan Premiere screening of ‘Positive Youth’ by filmmaker Charlie David will be held on Oct. 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Sacred Heart School Theatre, Yorkton. The event is hosted as a partnership of the Sunrise Health Region, 601 East, the Boys and Girls Club of Yorkton and the Yorkton Film Festival.

The film premiere is open to everyone, free of charge, and will be of particular interest to those wishing to learn more about filmmaking and persons wanting to better understand how communities, schools, employers and organizations can support awareness and understanding of those living with HIV.

‘Positive Youth’ is a one hour documentary following HIV positive youth in four North American cities and was filmed in cinéma vérité style. The subjects create a dynamic perspective on the reality of living positive today. Medical and psychological experts weigh in to provide up-to-date facts and a historical context to the reality of living with HIV. The film asks the question, “Why is the youth infection rate rapidly rising and what can we do about it?”

In addition to the public showing, many school students will also have the opportunity to see the film.

From Oct. 9 to 12 the film will screen throughout the region (see sidebar for times and locations).

“Positive Youth (the film) came about through a discussion I was having with executives at MTV Networks in New York,” said the film’s producer Charlie David in a feature in Yorkton This Week April 11, 2012. “I told them I wasn’t interested in creating ‘hair-pulling’ television. I wanted to make films and TV that inspired conversation and that create social change and reflection.  

“With my other films – Mulligans, Beyond Gay: The

Politics of Pride and 2 Frogs in the West I feel there’s social norms that are brought into light and questioned – whether it’s a young French Canadian girl leaving Quebec for adventure and to learn English in the West or following a human rights movement in Moscow.  

“I am most interested and passionate when I feel I’m taking an audience into sometimes uncomfortable territory – but territory that I hope they will be challenged by and come out richer for the experience.”

David, formerly David Lubiniecki who grew up in Yorkton said the film was one he was initially a bit uncertain about.

“When I told the network executives at MTV the type of films I wanted to make we started to brainstorm ideas and they actually put forward the idea of doing something with HIV-positive youth,” he said. “The idea frankly scared me. That’s also how I knew it was a good one.  

“This film was not easy to make – I had to face a lot of my own stigma in terms of HIV. I was scared of HIV – I had seen the horrible pictures of people wasting away and dying. Everything I knew about it was scary.”

In that respect David said making the film helped him too.

“Through spending time with the young stars of my film I finally felt cleansed of my own ignorance and I felt ashamed for some of the brash misconceptions and judgements I had even subconsciously held,” he said. “We are very quick to support, run marathons and rally behind people in our society with diabetes, or breast cancer, or heart disease but HIV has the unfortunate classification of judgement - ‘your choices led you to this.’ The film has garnered its share of attention.”

Whoopi Goldberg (The View) recently stated, “this is a very important documentary, this isn’t over and it’s affecting our youth,” while Sir Elton John has echoed, “By all means, take a look at this film.”

Now Yorkton youth will have that opportunity.

“It’s always a pleasure to get to share what you create with the community you grew up in. Yorkton has fostered many admirable athletes, artists, writers, and business people,” said David in a recent Yorkton This Week interview.  “I’ve always been proud to be from Saskatchewan and it means a lot to have the support from the school systems in Yorkton, Kamsack, Melville, Esterhazy and the First Nations to welcome me to share this film.”

Local youth will have a bonus in that they will be able to discuss the film with its creator.

“I’ll be attending all the screenings to introduce the film and lead a question and answer session in conjunction with the Sunrise Health Region team,” said David. “Although the film has educational aspects I view it as more of an emotional journey with young people living with a chronic illness and how they deal with those challenges – I think we all have experienced loss in some way and the film is about finding hope despite hardship.  I think that’s a very relatable experience regardless of where we fall in the rainbow of the human family.”

So how does David think an audience at a school in East Central Saskatchewan will react to his film?

“I think the audience in Yorkton and area are going to be shaken up a bit in watching the film.” he said. “There’s a reason why 601 East opened in the SIGN building on Broadway Yorkton. The rate of new cases of HIV in Saskatchewan is double the national average. This isn’t an illness affecting gay men in far off San Francisco or New York City. This is a condition that is spreading quickly through the human family regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or race. HIV does not discriminate, unfortunately uneducated people do and it’s time we all wake up, get the real facts, start the spread of useful information and stop the spread of HIV.”

That said David believes Yorkton audiences will also be understanding and appreciative.

“I’ve always found Yorkton and Saskatchewan in general to be much more ‘hip’ and in the know than we get credit for,” he said. “I think a lot of people will be alarmed when they realize just how high the transmission rate of HIV is in youth.  We can’t keep our heads in the sand and believe this won’t or can’t affect our community and people we care about.  It’s important to acknowledge that sex is a healthy expression of love and being alive – while also educating on the necessity of practicing safe sex by using condoms.  

“It’s important we get out from under the dust of a puritanical era and instead of surrounding sex with misinformation, shame, or judgement- provide our young people with the real information they need to make informed decisions about their health and well being.”

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