In many African countries, HIV/AIDS is called "Slim". In this 28-minute documentary film, seven African children, ranging in age from 6 to 17 years old, talk about what it's like to be HIV positive. Of the seven children, four are girls and three are boys. Three of the children have lost both parents to AIDS and three have lost one parent.
In the film, the children discuss how old they were when they found out they were HIV positive, how they felt when they first learned they were infected, how they are treated at home and at school, and how the illness affects their daily lives. They also talk about their dreams for the future, and the career paths they hope to follow some day. Their answers to this question often reflect the way they have been treated by society.
I am a professor of film at Boston University. In 2004, I traveled to Uganda as a Fulbright Scholar, to make this film and to teach video production at Makerere University in Kampala. Going there, I knew that HIV/AIDS is a huge problem in Africa and that the number of children in Africa who are "living with slim," is staggering,
I had seen or heard about many films and press stories dealing with HIV/AIDS, but they were almost all about adults with HIV/AIDS. What was missing was a film about HIV positive children that allowed the children themselves to speak about the disease.
So I set out to find children who were HIV positive who would agree to be filmed. I realized that one of the most important steps was to come up with the questions I would ask. To get ideas, I read letters written by HIV positive children to their HIV/AIDS counselors, in which they wrote about what was going on in their lives. I then turned the issues the children most cared about into questions.
One of the key counselors was Esther Kangave at Mulago Hospital's Infectious Diseases Clinic (IDC) in Kampala, Uganda. She works with HIV positive children every day and understands their problems, so I asked her to help me produce the film and conduct the interviews. When the interviews were nearly completed, Esther had to leave Africa for a training program in the U.K., so I used several other counselors to conduct the remaining interviews.
I interviewed 27 children in total. I asked all of them the same questions. From the 27 children, I chose the seven who are in the final film. All the children were excellent, but some were more vocal than others, and I also wanted to balance issues of age, gender, rural, urban, etc.
I shot the film myself and recorded the sound as well. Because of the sensitive nature of the film, and the age of the children, I decided not to use a production crew. I wanted to limit the number of people involved and thus eliminate many distractions.
Recently, PSI-Uganda, a USAID-funded program fighting HIV/AIDS in Uganda, teamed with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to purchase 350 copies of "Living with Slim" for use in antenatal clinics to motivate pregnant women to seek counseling and testing.
"Living with Slim" had its world premier at Uganda's National Theatre on May 23, 2004.
Living With Slim: Kids Talk About HIV/AIDS (2004)
Duration: 28 minutes
Directed by Sam Kauffmann
- SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Boston Society of Film Critics 2004
- SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Winslow International Film Festival 2004
- SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENT AWARD: Amakula Kampala Film Festival 2004
- WINNER BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: CINE Golden Eagle Award 2005
"Extraordinary and profoundly moving."
— William Rankin, President, GLOBAL AIDS INTERFAITH ALLIANCE
"Every African - no - every human should see this film. "
— Irene Napoko-Watenga, MILDMAY INTERNATIONAL
"Heartbreaking... "Living with Slim" does its job. "
— THE BOSTON PHOENIX
"In filmmaker Sam Kauffmann’s “Living With Slim: Kids Talk About HIV/AIDS”, seven African children (their nationalities are not disclosed) talk about what it’s like to be a child with HIV/AIDS (in Africa, nicknames “slim”). Many speak English (subtitles are provided for those who don’t), most were infected at birth, some have already lost at least one parent to the disease, and some are orphaned and living with relatives. Ranging in age from 6-17, the children’s soulful eyes and heartbreaking tales are both moving and disturbing (in a sad postscript, we learn that one girl, 13-year-old Dianah, died six months after filming ended). While the interview questions are the same from child to child, (i.e. “How old were you when you found out?” “Who told you the news?”), the somewhat static format is enlivened with scenes from the children’s homes and daily lives.Winner of a 2005 CINE Golden Eagle Award for Best Documentary Short, this is recommended. Aud: J, H, C, P."
— R. Reagan VIDEO LIBRARIAN - July/August 2006