About the Author: Hai Hoang works with PEPFAR Vietnam."People Living with Stories" is a unique film project specially commissioned for World AIDS Day 2010 that features eight people living with HIV from a cross-section of Vietnamese society. In a series of short appearances, the eight participants reveal intimate moments about their lives, such as love, bereavement, a first kiss, a wedding day, a memory of a lost love or a friend's loyalty. The central theme of the film is one of universal humanity: by telling their stories, the participants reveal that they are just like others within their community and that they share similar experiences. The film attempts to directly tackle the issue of stigma, showing how people should be defined by their shared life experiences and not their HIV status.
"People Living with Stories" is a co-production between the Centre of Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP) and Ensemble Films and was commissioned by CCIHP with support from PEPFAR. The idea for the film was conceived as a way to tackle stigma and discrimination with a different approach from the standard documentary film. The film was made in collaboration with civil society platforms and people with living with HIV. Before the filming started, a preparatory workshop was held on storytelling craft and how to speak to the camera. The film was then shot in a studio-style environment at Hanoi Cinematheque. It is hoped that the film will cause the general public to see people living with HIV in a different way, as more familiar and more like other people they know.
The film was directed by Paul Zetter, who has lived and worked in Vietnam for over 10 years and has made documentaries that tackle a wide range of development issues in Vietnam. Cinematographer and photographer Jamie Maxtone-Graham, also a Hanoi resident, has worked on a wide portfolio of films from features to documentaries from Hollywood to Hanoi.
The Hanoi Cinematheque will show this film over three nights leading up to World AIDS Day as part of short season of films that highlight the issues of human rights and HIV/AIDS. After the launch event on November 29, all the films will be posted on YouTube for wider audiences.