Interview with director of HIV/AIDS film Hidden Tears
Tuesday 1 June 2004
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ETHIOPIA: Interview with director of HIV/AIDS film Hidden Tears

©  IRIN/Anthony Mitchell

Film maker Kidane Yilak.

ADDIS ABABA, 15 January (PLUSNEWS) - Ethiopiaís fledgling film industry is turning its attention to fighting the HIV/AIDS virus. Here, the documentary film-maker, Kidane Yilak, tells PlusNews why he felt compelled to make the countryís first-ever film addressing the stigma and discrimination prompted by the virus, and the threat posed by HIV/AIDS, which has infected an estimated 2.2 million people in Ethiopia.

QUESTION: Why have you made this film?

ANSWER: I made this film because of the effects of HIV on women in Ethiopia. Women in Ethiopia are victimised if they have HIV because of the traditional cultures and mistaken outlooks. Women are oppressed in Ethiopia. There are thousands of women who are prostitutes in Ethiopia because they are so poor. Women are more victimised than men in HIV, and I made this film to help change the outlook of the people in areas of stigma and discrimination, to help change the views of people.

Q: What does the film actually tell us?

A: The film tells us of the impact of stigma. Women face discrimination and cannot gain the support of society because of this discrimination and stigma. So I want to change these attitudes towards stigma and discrimination.

Q: Why is film a good way to do this?

A: I work for Walta Information Centre who make a lot of books and brochures on HIV and raising awareness. They produced the film and we thought this was the best way to change the outlook, to make an impact, because it is easier to absorb the information if it is a film. In Ethiopia, especially in the rural areas, many people cannot read, so we needed a method that reached them as well. In Ethiopia we say seeing is believing and pictures have a more powerful message than words.

Q: But in Ethiopia few people have access to television or cinemas, so the number who will see the film is limited.

A: This film is being shown on national television, but we are also going to show it in villages around the country, showing it through cinema projectors. We have around 1,500 copies of the film to disseminate it to other areas of the country so that they can see the film as well. We expect around 2 million people will see the film, that is my target audience at the moment. I hope more will see it, but we expect at the beginning around 2 million people in rural areas will get to see it in the first year. We are also distributing this film through NGOs working with HIV/AIDS as well.

Q: Does it convey a more powerful message as real people and showing their lives?

A: Of course. Those women who are HIV positive in our film, and by appearing in the film, making themselves open, not hiding in their homes, helps overcome the problems they have. People can relate to them. These are our mothers and daughters. I want to show the problem that this discrimination and stigma can cause simply because they are HIV positive and eventually
the film tries to show the solutions.

Q: And what are the solutions?

A: Women should not hide themselves. For example, if a woman is [HIV] positive she often will hide herself from the people, will not say she has the virus, or will remain in her home. If you hide that you are positive, it can help spread the virus. If you discriminate [against them], women can end up hating themselves and develop hatred towards other people.

Q: Why is the film called Siwir Enba Ė Hidden tears?

A: For the simple reason that people cannot see hidden tears, and that if women are hiding the fact they are HIV positive, we do not know they are hiding their tears. Many women when they are HIV positive do not want to show their families, their community or society that they are carrying the virus because of the stigma. They want to conceal their feelings; they want to repress the feelings inside them. So if you change their outlook they change themselves.

Q: Do you think film can help break taboos?

A: Yes, it can get people talking, raise awareness. But there is awareness of the problem in Ethiopia. Most people are aware of HIV/AIDS, but there is very little change in behaviour at the moment. Many people know HIV can kill, destroy families, can destroy society, but they are very careless. Most high school students know this, but they donít use condoms. So I also want, through the film, to bring about a behavioural change.

Q: Do you think other artists or film-makers should follow your example?

A: I havenít seen other artists or film-makers making films about stigma and discrimination, but they are covering HIV in general. This is the first-ever film on stigma and discrimination, and helping to overcome it is not just down to NGOs or the government. We artists, film-makers have a role to play, so I would like to see people addressing stigma.

Q: What inspired you to make the film?

A: Firstly, the problem in the country. This is a critical problem in Ethiopia. Many people are negligent when it comes to controlling HIV. And many of my friends have died from HIV/AIDS, so I have had a personal experience of the effects of this virus. Many of them were young people. I also know people who hide themselves because of the stigma. I believe that stigma and discrimination is the main case for the spread of HIV in Ethiopia at this time. So really it was personal experience that made me make the film.

Q: Did you learn anything yourself making this film?

A: I have worked with a lot of women during the making of this film who are HIV positive. When they told me their personal experiences, it made me change my behaviour. It made me understand the problem of HIV from the bottom of my heart. As the film shows, there were two women who died during the film simply because of stigma and discrimination.

Q: How did they die from stigma and discrimination?

A: With one woman, her sister and mother treated her very cruelly. She was kicked out of their home, they insulted her and didnít give her food or any support. They didnít take her to hospital when she was sick, and because of that she died. And there are many other women like this in the country. The film is dedicated to all women in Ethiopia who are stigmatised and discriminated against because they are HIV positive.

Q: Were you surprised at the scale of the problem in Ethiopia?

A: Yes. I donít think many people realise the size of the problem in Ethiopia. Even the numbers given to us by researchers and the government are small, because in families all around the country there is someone affected by this virus. Either someone has died or is sick because of HIV. Every family has been touched - a brother or a sister, a mother or father who has been affected. If a person dies, they do not expose this. They will say the person has died from something else. And that is what I am trying to overcome.



Recent ETHIOPIA Reports

US grants $18 million for HIV/AIDS,  27/Apr/04
New project launched to help HIV/AIDS-affected families,  23/Apr/04
National HIV/AIDS forum launched,  1/Apr/04
Focus on local manufacture of anti-retroviral drugs,  10/Mar/04
Calls for greater youth involvement in anti-AIDS fight,  4/Mar/04


PlusNews is produced under the banner of RHAIN, the Southern African Regional HIV/AIDS Information Network. RHAIN's members currently include:


  • IRIN

  • Inter Press Service (IPS)



  • Health Systems Trust

  • Health & Development

  • GTZ/Afronets

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