Monday, 21 April 2008

Hot Doc Diary Day 4

There are 3 million people in the Greater Toronto Area. There are 2 million AIDS orphans in Uganda. Get the picture? The subject matter is a serious one, but Christa Graff's documentary, Memory Books, uncovers an empowering organization called NACWOLA (National Community of Women Living with AIDS). It was through NACWOLA that HIV+ women began writing down their stories. As one mother says, if they don't tell the children how wonderful they are while they are alive, who will be there to do it when they are gone? The Memory Books are a project that mothers and children work on together. In the photo (top left) Betty, who cannot read or write, dictates a story to her son and daughter, Lucy.

Dennis (left) reads from the memory book his mother wrote with him and his sister Chrissie. Dennis is only now understanding the importance of the book in reminding him of his mother, her life, his birth and how much she loved him. Through writing the book, the children also remember the time spent with their mothers while creating the books. Community nurse and NACWOL member, Christine is a fierce force in advocating for women and children. She too, is HIV+, and teaches women that AIDS is not a death sentence if they have friends, family, and a good mental attitude. AIDS has forced many women, who followed the dictates of men, to take control of their lives for the first time.

What would you do if your adult daughter who was raised Christian became a Muslim after being held hostage by the Taliban? Well, this is the subject matter of My Mother's Daughter. Journalist Yvonne Ridley promised her captors that she would become a Muslim when she was released and, after reading the Koran several times, Yvonne found that the Koran's values of equality regardless of sex or race was more in keeping with her feminist views than Christianity. While her mother admits that Yvonne's conversion helped her daughter to quit smoking and drinking, she is not at peace with her daughter being a Muslim--she is not eating Halal meat and won't give up her bacon sandwiches. This film puts an interesting spin on the mother-daughter relationship, raises some thought-provoking issues and generates a few laughs while doing so. Well done director Saleyha Ahsan!

Not so well done is A Road to Mecca: The Journey of Muhammad Asad (dir. Georg Misch). The film is well-intentioned, but dry and lacks the energy needed to tell the fascinating story of a Leopold Weiss, a Jew who converted to Islam in the 1920's while travelling through the dessert and living with Bedouins. Asad is considered one of the most important Muslims of the 20th century, having worked for Saudi Kings and translated a highly praised edition of the Koran. He is also the co-founder of Pakistan. Asad dreamed of the East and West discussing their differences and finding acceptance of each other. This film is okay viewing but does not live up to such a dynamic personality.

Check out for details about screenings.

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