Films: Thing with No Name

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Thing with No Name

Thing with No Name

South Africa, 2008, 74 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: USA
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Documentary, Womens Issues
Program: Documentary Films
Language: Zulu, English English Subtitles

DIRECTOR: Sarah Friedland
Producer: (executive) Sarah Friedland, (executive) Esy Casey
Editor: Sarah Friedland
Cinematographer: Esy Casey

In the mountainous province of KwaZulu-Natal—where director Sarah Friedland and DP Esy Casey filmed their coproduced documentary Thing with No Name—one out of every six residents is HIV-positive. Twice as many women as men suffer from infection. The people of rural South Africa call the disease by many names (including “the finisher of the nation”) and sing songs about the destruction it wreaks—but have no satisfactory program to treat it. They say, “The cure is in Cape Town; when will it reach us?”

Thing with No Name personalizes the epidemic by following two Zulu women infected with full-blown AIDS—thirty-two-year-old Danisile and forty-year-old Ntombeleni—as they receive their antiretroviral drug therapy. Living in separate villages, these brave women experience not only side effects but emotional distress as they continue to deal with family matters and daily chores. Danisile, for one, refuses to let her compromised immune system slow her down. She carries wood, tends the fire, and walks three hours to her drug-training sessions—while her seventeen-year-old daughter worries about becoming an orphan. Ntombeleni’s family clings to hope in the form of ancient ceremonies and alternative medicines even as her health continues to deteriorate. For her, triumph is measured in increments, like summoning the strength just to sit up. Though a volunteer nurse comes to her assistance, the medical community in general, strained to the maximum, cannot stem the tide of AIDS in this part of the world—which could have ebbed with the early implementation of testing programs.

Friedland—both of whose parents work with AIDS patients in the United States—was supported by grants from The Paul Newman Foundation and others in making Thing with No Name, in which victims “die every other day” against the cruelly eternal beauty of the landscape.


Barbara Bridges,
In cooperation with Denver Pan African Film Festival

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