According to the Soul City Regional Programme, as HIV and AIDS does not respect borders, the success in curtailing the epidemic depends on a coordinated regional response, which not only allows organisations in the different countries to share best practice, but also ensures synergy of health messages.
The series of 24-minute films aims to change complex patterns of particular sexual behaviour that put people at risk of HIV infection. According to Soul City, this cannot be done through simple messages. Through drama, it is, however, possible to deal with the journey of complex characters facing complex choices, whilst entertaining and educating. The series aims to reach people with authentic local stories that will get people talking and challenge them to reflect on their own lives and the lives of the people around them. The films are shot in the local languages of the respective countries.
According to the organisers, television is an important vehicle for reaching large audiences and has the potential to contribute significantly to Africa’s development. For that reason, the project also aimed to create opportunities for local filmmakers to develop their skills to tell new stories and grow the local content of quality dramas on television across the region.
Filmmakers and writers across the region attended an intensive 18-month accredited training course in script writing and drama film production in order to make the edutainment films. The multifaceted training programme consisted of: workshops with writers and filmmakers from across the region; follow-up assignments; and mentorship and technical support provided by well-known directors and producers on set and during pre- and post-production.
The filmmakers worked closely with the local NGO partners of the Soul City Regional Programme, who provided input on the content and messaging of the films, and were involved in much of the research and testing that formed part of the production process.
The series consists of the following 9 films (partner organisations indicated in brackets):
The Test - Malawi (Pakachere)
This is a comedy about facing fear. A successful, ambitious young Malawian man is too scared to have an HIV test at the request of his girlfriend, even though this may jeopardise his relationship.
Secrets and Lies - South Africa (Soul City)
A couple, who are unable to communicate with each other, seek comfort and pleasure elsewhere. This films looks at how HIV can enter a relationship and how keeping secrets can put people's lives at risk.
A Tempestade (The Storm) - Mozambique (N'weti Comunicação para Saúde) [See the video, below]
This is a story about domestic violence in a small fishing community in Mozambique. A young fisherman must risk his relationship with his father to save his mother from harm at the hands of his father.
Ulendo wa Rose (Rose's Journey) - Zambia (Kwatu)
This is a story about a young HIV-positive orphan in need of care and support and the choices faced by her extended family who are considering taking care of her.
Batjele (Tell Them) - Swaziland (Lusweti)
This film, set in the foothills of Manzini, tells the story of a young Swazi girl who is being abused by her teacher. In order to expose the abusive teacher, she must stand up against a community that does not believe her.
Rebel Rhymes - Botswana (Choose Life)
This is a fast paced musical drama about growing up and taking responsibility. An angry young rebel rapper, in search of fame, suddenly becomes a parent to his orphaned siblings.
Mapule's Choice - Lesotho (Phela Health and Development Communications)
A young garment worker from Maseru must keep her HIV-positive status a secret to please her abusive husband. This forces her to travel long distances to get ARVs and means she does not get the emotional support she needs. She has to choose between her husband and saving herself.
Chipo’s Promise - Zimbabwe (Action)
This is the story of a young girl, living in the heart of a township in Harare, who is forced to be a mother to her orphaned younger brother and sister, after their parents pass away due to AIDS. The film shows how they struggle to make ends meet in a community that does not want them.
Desert Soul - Namibia
Set in a funky hair salon in Windhoek, a friendship is put to the test, when the wealthy, smooth-talking boyfriend of one of the characters makes a move on her friend and business partner. Facing financial pressures due to an ailing father, she needs to make a choice between money and maintaining her friendship and new business.
From October to December 2008, these films were broadcast across the region in prime-time television slots.
The films are also available on DVD. In addition, a booklet has been developed to support discussion and debate on the issues raised by the films.