Raymond Fils (Cinemateque Films; 19 year old art student & Show Me Your Life mentor): Tim Barrus and I were looking for ways to create video shorts that would give kids in Show Me Your Life ideas and options as to what they might do in video to create visual metaphors of their lives. But Tim has taught me that if your ideas take over while you are filming, then you have to follow them to see what artistic shadows they are about because they are the images that tell the story of our lives. This is almost nine minutes long where the shorts we were originally going to do would have been a minute at the most. But once you get the camera in your hands, you have to at least try to understand what it is trying to tell you. I know that HIV has put my life at risk for a lot of things. But sometimes I forget that HIV is happening to a body. I am a human being whose story is about times, and places, and other people, and I am more than just a body. Human beings have layered stories. We are more than one story at a time. Our stories unfold on top of one another and within one another. We are different people to different people. HIV or no HIV, I am still someone who is in the world.
- a note from Tim Barrus (Director, Show Me Your Life; Founder, Cinemateque Films)
Raymond was mentoring the first student in Show Me Your Life, Moise, a young adolescent boy who lived in the République Démocratique du Congo who was subject to a machete attack by Ugandan soldiers. Moise would die from his wounds. He might have lived, but his HIV status rendered him at-risk for infection. There were no antibiotics available that might have been able to deal with the infections. Moise and Raymond did not manage to get much video out that went to Moise showing us his life. I was the censor on that one and the images I deleted were of a young girl being raped by the same soldiers who would kill Moise.
And yet these images, difficult to look at, are part of the story of their lives.
Show Me Your Life is not a rendering of children into Disneyfied images that have no relationship to the reality of how most children live in the real world. That world is one of extraordinary bullying, warfare, sexwork, HIV, malaria, a workweek of eighty hours in a sweatshop, addiction, starvation, and abuse. None of these issues can be divorced from any of the others. This IS how children live their lives. I have grown weary of deleting scenes that might upset those who would erase us and our stories if they could.
Raymond was deeply affected by the death of Moise. I did not think we would end up with short-minute video clips that would give insight into how to make a video. That is not really what we do. We are struggling to tell children to show us their lives and then when they do the subsequent screaming of outrage by adults who should know better ensues.
I am learning, too. What is important to show. What is important to construct as metaphor. What is important not to show.
Show me your life.
“Slave (awakening)” (for tomb of Pope Julius II) by Michelangelo Buonarrotti 1519-36
"Boy leading a horse" by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973; MoMA)
Our health and well-being is directly related to the health and well-being of the community surrounding us, whether we happen to be well or ill. HIV is a retrovirus that does not discriminate; any body may be infected or affected by this virus. One of the easiest ways for the transmission of HIV to successfully occur is through the exchange of bodily fluids between social human beings during sexual intercourse.
Real Stories does not seek to offend the hundreds of millions of people whose lives are today affected by HIV. Indeed, our intention is the exact opposite. We wish to employ our workshop space to speak about and explore the ways in which the transmission of HIV and the perceptions and behaviours of social sexually active human beings are closely entwined and bear a close relationship with a battery of human rights abuses (frequently inflicted during the transmission of HIV and by the subsequent lack of access to appropriate healthcare).
The secrecy and taboo veiling sexual thoughts and practices is thickened with an extrapolation of cultural meaning and nuance. It is within this context and with an acute awareness of the complexity that Real Stories is working to raise awareness and reflect on the discriminatory perceptions and behaviours that have facilitated for HIV/AIDS to scourge through our communities. The challenges for the contemporary visual artist and storyteller within this focus are BIG, and risky.
“Vitruvian Man” by Leonardo da Vinci (c.1487)
Real Stories Gallery would like to thank the contemporary Video Artist Raymond Fils, who despite his youth (19 years old), has chosen not to remain silent and has taken much personal risk in sharing his story today with complete strangers. He has chosen, with extreme thought and skill, to begin to unpin the grammar of nervousness used to secure the blindfold of fear associated with HIV and the sexual human body. With much sensitivity and compassion, he is questioning the creation and consequences experienced by BOYs and GIRLs in the communities surrounding him.
Sexual abuse survivors are more likely to participate in activities that increase their risk for unintended pregnancy (self and partner) and infection with HIV and other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Youth who run away or are forced out of the home are especially vulnerable because of their participation in survival sex, prostitution and/or drug use. Several studies indicate more than half of all sex workers are sexual abuse survivors.
Sexual abuse survivors and those infected with HIV / AIDS are at risk for suicide. Each year, up to 20 million people worldwide attempt to commit suicide, with about a million of these completing the act... In our own species, suicide usually means deliberately trying to end our psychological existence—or at least this particular psychological existence.