Earlier this month, I was honored to be invited to attend the screening of a film entitled “Even Me”. I was first told about the film through a friend of mine. She and I share the same doctor and, like me, she is someone who is on the front lines, deep in the trenches in the battle against HIV and AIDS in populations where it is needed most.
I was so excited that my friend was featured in this film. She’s someone I truly admire and respect as well as someone who fully understands that this battle against HIV and AIDS requires far more than stats and figures. She fully understands that in order to make a lasting change, we must meet people where they are and speak to them in ways they can understand, with love and respect.
I later learned there was a woman I had the honor of speaking with on Capitol Hill for AIDSWatch and even a woman I sat beside during the AIDS treatment education trainings, as well as women I currently sit with on two community advisory boards (CAB).
Film maker Megan Ebor, a graduate student at UCLA did an outstanding and, in my opinion, a job worthy of a Golden Globe and Academy Award in how she carefully and thoughtfully shared the stories of several women and one gentleman over 50 years old LIVING with HIV or AIDS. Her grace, style and great care shined throughout the film. I can see why these amazing individuals shared their souls with her in ways never done before on film.
Even though the film is a documentary, it didn't feel at all like a history lesson, but more of a valuable life lesson from people filled with knowledge and wisdom. It wasn't preachy or void of any substance, but was filled with real life stories from people who live amazing lives and do some pretty amazing things in their own neighborhoods. The film puts a clear face on those over 50 living with HIV and AIDS, but in ways that make you think and consider your own life and the choices you make, without being judgmental or feeling sorry for those in the film.
I had the pleasure of taking two friends with me to the film screening. They too loved it and felt it is a film that everyone should see. Not only that, this is a film that could be used in teaching sex education and could also very much benefit those in the medical profession who for one reason or another always seem to overlook those over 50 years of age when it comes to things like sexually transmitted diseases. This movie will make you laugh with joy and cry with tears of hurt and pain, but most of all it will educate you in ways that have never been done before.
After the film I had the chance to speak with my friends who are in the film as well as meet and speak with the film maker. What struck me the most about her was just how easy it was to talk with her. How she was so open to sharing her ideas and process about making the film. She wasn't stuffy or snobbish, but kind and caring. Even though she attends UCLA (my childhood gardener went to that school) she had the feel of a USC Trojan (FIGHT ON!!!) and one of the doctors in the film attended and now teaches under the USC Keck School of Medicine.
On the ride back home my friend Carlos and I began to talk about the film we are currently working on and just how much we both were so very encouraged by the film we just saw. We talked about how very important it is for us to make a film that allows people to share their own stories of living with HIV, while also educating those who are viewing the film.
I remember being told that there was nothing I could do to help those living with HIV. In fact, I was told that my thinking was backwards and that I should just leave it to the professionals. Well, for over 30 years we've been leaving it to the professionals and numbers of HIV infections and AIDS deaths in certain populations have increased. So it would be in the best interest of all humanity to start considering new ways of preventing, educating as well as treatment, when it comes to HIV and AIDS. Granted there has been major progress in HIV medications, but there is still much work to be done.
Megan, the film maker, the women and one man in this film showed me something I already knew....You don’t need to have a title or position. You don’t need some office where you sit behind a fancy desk with pictures of you shaking hands of fancy people, to make a lasting change in this world. You just need to have the desire to do so. So it is with a huge desire to bring positive and lasting change and continue to press forward, doing all that I can to reach those who are often seen, but not heard.
I'm encouraged by this film, honored to have had the chance to attend the screening, but most importantly I am that much more vigilant in making certain that those without a voice are heard and have their needs addressed. This is a must see film and I pray that it becomes available to everyone.
This film was partially funded through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. The films screening was generously supported by the UCLA Social Welfare Department and the Graduate Students Association.
See an excerpt from Even Me here.