Moments of Film


Sunday, 18 October 2009

House of Numbers - Raindance Film Festival

Some of us were born into a world without HIV but in the 1980’s that world changed for us.

A controversial film dealing with the subject of HIV and AIDS, House of Numbers is a fascinating documentary that raises some very interesting questions about how the virus was discovered and the practices that have grown around it ever since.

Accused (perhaps a little unfairly) of being thinly veiled AIDS denialist propaganda, the festivals that have chosen to screen the film have come under severe pressure to drop it from festival programmes, Raindance was no exception and the festival took a stand against the threats that came their way by giving the film not one but two screenings.

I'm on the fence a bit as to how propagandist it really is. Certainly the film has a strong point of view which is to seriously question the discrepancies in the way the virus and syndrome are connected, categorised, diagnosed and treated, including an examination of the politics and financial machinations behind the way pandemic numbers have been handled and the possible reasons that inaccuracies could exist. Some very important questions have been asked and it seems for good reason.

How the answers have been presented is another matter and there the documentary is rather one dimensional and (perhaps even irresponsible) in it's quest to highlight only the confusion and number cooking that exists, rather than providing enough context and common sense summation for the range of answers and opinions the scientists have attempted to give. Certainly things like the overall accuracy of the screening system widespread consensus among a majority of scientists about HIV, as well as the few disagreements and conflicting views detailed in the documentary, have been glossed over somewhat.

Given the widely acknowledged severity of immune related illness and deaths across all classes and cultures. I can see why people are upset at the filmmakers presentation and I understand the fears that this film supports denialism and could threaten the good work that has been done to combat ignorance and lack of available treatment and support not only in some of the most vulnerable quarters of the world, but also here in the West, where complacency is accredited with causing infection figures to have begun rising again.

But it's not this film's job to be a medical journal, it’s a documentary and it’s job is to have a somewhat biased point of view about the confusing array of information and assumptions that exist, to examine the alternate opinions about HIV, ask some questions and question the answers. All documentaries (if they are good) have an opinion. It's certainly true by anyone's standards that there is a confusing amount of irregularity and political agenda happening that has muddied the facts and figures about this frightening pandemic disease that seemed not to exist before the 1980's. While medicine is a complex issue with no easy answers that doesn't mean nobody should be allowed to encourage the questions, even the provocative ones.

I'm glad I got to see House of Numbers, which, whatever it's intentions, was a thoroughly engaging, thought provoking and dynamic piece of filmmaking. By all means see it for yourself and then do your own research. In the meanwhile, stay safe.

Posted by Leilani at 02:41