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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Pandemic - Facing AIDS
Pandemic - Facing AIDS
Docurama // Unrated // November 25, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted February 13, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Every 10 seconds, someone in the world dies from AIDS.  The disease has killed 24 million people already.  Numbers like these are overwhelming and hard to really comprehend, so filmmaker Rory Kennedy set out to give the numbers some impact by putting a human face on the millions of people who have HIV.

This film profiles five people who have AIDS or work with individuals who are HIV positive.  Each person comes from a different country where the disease is spreading at different rates and for different reasons.

In Uganda, Margaret and Apollo work with children whose parents have died of AIDS.  They try to educate adults too, traveling to the rural communities and villages and teaching about the spread of the disease.  They also pay for people to get tested.

Russia has an AIDS problem too.  There the main method of transition is from shared needles among drug abusers.  In this country the movie profiles a couple of ex-addicts who have contracted the disease and become activists, trying to educate the public.

Bhanu is a native of India who contracted the disease from a prostitute after he was married.  He stopped sleeping with his wife when he found out, but she really wants a child.  They risk getting her infected in order to create a child.

Thailand had the most heart wrenching story.  A young girl is abandoned by her husband and left with their child.  She turns to prostitution to support herself, and contracts the fatal disease.  Her family is ashamed of her, and so she leaves her son with them and moves to one of the few hospices in the country.

A homosexual man, Alex, contracts the disease in Brazil where they have a socialized medical program that pays for the drugs he needs to treat, but not cure, the disease.

These five stories were moving, and tearful in parts.  The movie succeeds in putting a face on AIDS victims in other countries, but that is all it does.  It does not attempt to offer any solutions to the spread of AIDS.  The film does note what steps are being taken in the countries it visits, but it makes no judgment as to what is the most effective.  The film doesn't excite the viewer into action, either.  But I feel it's biggest failing as a documentary is that I was not educated.  I didn't learn anything the I didn't already know.  The fact that AIDS is a world wide problem is common knowledge, as are the main methods of transmition.   Having a stronger thread running through the film would have made it a better movie.

The DVD:



Audio:

The audio to this movie was appropriate.  Being a documentary and dialog driven, this two channel mono mix is not going to push your sound system to its limits, but the dialog is clear and there are not annoying audio defects like hums or pops.

Video:

This picture is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Being a documentary, this film doesn't have the best video quality, but it isn't horrible either.  There are prevalent digital artifacts, cross coloration, some aliasing, and they used edge enhancement on the picture too.  Parts of the film are a little bright in places where highlights get washed out.  Other than that, it looks good for a documentary.

The Extras:

There are a few extras on this DVD, all except the trailers are text based.  There is a statement from the filmmaker and her biography.  There's a photo gallery with still pictures of all the people profiled, and a Resource Guide that gives address and web sites for agencies that deal with this disease.  There are also trailers to other Docudrama films.

Final Thoughts:

I am not sure if the movie successes ultimately.  Pandemic:  Facing AIDS is a snapshot of the conditions of AIDS sufferers in different countries of the world.  The fact that it didn't try to educate the viewer or offer potential solution left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied.  If you are interested in the subject, the film is well done, but I just don't feel that it adds much to the dialog concerning HIV and AIDS.  Rent It.

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