World Aids Day
Seeing the light
Children from 29 provinces tell their own stories of living with HIV/AidsA child cooking omelette urges his grandmother to sit down to dinner. "Granny, come and eat with me," says Te, a primary-school-age boy.
"No," comes the answer. "I'm not hungry now. You go ahead."
A thoughtful boy seems to be showing gratitude by cooking for his elderly grandma.
Then we hear his thoughts: "I don't know how many times granny has spoken those sentences to me. I know that I've heard them since I was able to remember things. Granny has never eaten food with me."
("After you're full, clean the dishes thoroughly," says Granny.)
"I know Granny fears she will catch my disease, even though my teacher says no one gets infected just by living alongside someone with HIV/Aids," thinks the boy, leaving the audience in no doubt of his situation.
The opening scene of "Khon Tee Khao Jai" ("A Person who Understands") is tough to watch - it's made all the tougher if you know that this 11-minute film tells the real-life story of a boy from Chanthaburi.
"I don't dare tell my teacher or anybody else what I have been suffering," Te continues. "I'm scared of what will happen to me if I tell them, and everyone hates me. Even Granny, who has looked after me since I was a child, doesn't dare eat with me. What the teacher said won't help me. People believe in what they feel rather than in the truth."
Meanwhile, we hear the source of the grandmother's doubt and fear. She has seen her daughter and son-in-law die from Aids. She had been assured that the disease was not easily transmitted, but could anyone give her a 100-per-cent guarantee?
The neighbours are also fearful. They urge Te's grandmother to leave him with a foster home. He's a burden and is going to die - no one with the disease survives.
The old woman makes up her mind. "Your life here will be difficult," she explains.
Te listens helplessly, knowing that she is wrong.
At the foster home, he wonders how long he will have to stay, and clings to the hope that one day they will let him return home to his grandmother.
"With 'Khon Tee Khao Jai', we wanted to show that people living with HIV/Aids want someone who understands them," explains the short film's director, Misak Chinphong. "No one understands Te, the main character, but understanding is what he craves."
"Khon Tee Khao Jai" is just one of 29 short films created by people working with HIV/Aids networks in 29 provinces. Made by amateur filmmakers and actors, they are often rough around the edges, but these real-life stories have a very direct emotional power.
Depicted are struggles for acceptance from friends and classmates, as well as stories of young love in which one partner has HIV/Aids.
"Many of them reflect the problems that people, especially children, living with HIV/Aids have encountered - the discrimination, rights violations, hatred, and obstacles to love and the hope for a better future," says Nimit Tienudom, director of the Aids Access Foundation. "Some of the films reflect problems of certain groups, including migrant and homeless children," he adds.
Apiwat Kwangkaew, president of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/Aids, says the films allowed children living with the disease to tell their own stories. Audiences are made to realise that these incidents really do occur and that ignoring them will not make the underlying prejudice disappear. The films aim to inspire viewers to look deeper into the problems and help find solutions.
"Though we are not professional filmmakers, our strong point is that these stories come from real life," says Misak. "To mark World Aids Day on December 1, I invite people to watch these short films for some insight into the problems that make life so hard for many children and young people in our society."
Watch the films at www.thaiplus.net or at www.mangotv.tv.
"A Person Who Understands" can be seen at www.NationMultiMedia.com