Actor Charlie David goes behind the camera for his directorial debut with the documentary Positive Youth, a film about the reality of living with HIV in 2012.
Originally airing on the Logo television network in the United States, the documentary follows four HIV+ positive youth in four different North American cities including a straight 18-year-old impoverished First Nations woman, a gay 25-year-old white urbanite, a 27-year-old club kid jet-setter, and a black 23-year-old young man.
Alarmed by the rate of new transmissions in young people, David says he began to wonder how we had missed the mark in safe sex education. Going out to the youth directly through his documentary, David looked to have them speak about living positively with HIV, their fears, their hopes and the stigma that they’ve faced.
“There’s still so much fear surrounding HIV and AIDS and that comes from a general lack of education or interaction with positive people,” explains David. “By beginning the conversation my hope is that we’ll arrive at a more empathetic place and learn how to engage in more constructive prevention tools for our youth.”
With a plethora of retrospective documentaries on the AIDS crisis and interviews with survivors, David saw the positive youth of today being largely ignored. Opening up their lives to the camera, the four provide a uniquely personal perspective on the reality of living with HIV today.
“They were so honest, open and generous as they shared extremely personal reflections,” says David who remembers one particularly impactful moment shooting in Victoria with a mother who was HIV positive. “They have had to really pull together to just keep a roof over their heads and food on the table,” recounted David. “The eight year old son was practicing cello on their balcony before school with mom and sister holding the music. It was simple and yet profound to me that a family with little materially and that has battled the stigma of being HIV positive has banded together in such a loving, supportive way. They share love in a way that I think we all dream of.”
While David says a documentary wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision for his first time behind the camera, it is definitely an opportunity he is now grateful for having completed.
“I learned so much by engaging with real people. I learned how to listen in a new way. When working as the host on Bump! for example my job is always to keep the conversation flowing… But in a documentary my job as director and interviewer is to truly listen, to allow for moments of stillness and contemplation.”
With the hope that those in the audience who are HIV positive leave with a message of hope for the future, David also has a more practical message for those who are negative: “[I hope they walk away] with new empathy, education, and an understanding as to why prevention and regular testing are still so important.”
Plays with Courage in the Face of Hate at Empire Granville 7 Cinemas on Saturday, August 25 at 5pm. Visit http://www.queerfilmfestival.ca for more information.