An intimate portrait of two HIV positive Zulu women in rural South Africa, their struggle to survive, and the clash of tradition with treatment in a growing, yet unspoken epidemic.
Putting a face to the magnitude of suffering caused by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa -- more than 5 million Africans are currently infected -- Thing With No Name follows two women through a course of antiretroviral drug therapy. The film is set in the mountains of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the rate of infection in women is twice that of men, and one out of every six people is HIV+.
This feature-length documentary provides an unprecedented, intimate glimpse into the traditional life of a rapidly changing culture. The story follows Danisile and Ntombeleni, two women with full-blown AIDS as they attempt to access recently introduced antiretroviral (ARV) treatment through the public sector. Danisile responds well to the medications, with the support of her family and her volunteer nurse. Ntombeleni does not respond as positively, experiencing the delirium and difficult side effects that are a strong source of controversy within the Zulu culture.
The universal aspects of motherhood and the struggle to survive are explored through the womens' lives: Danisile's strained relationship with her teenage daughter, who secretly fears becoming one of South Africa's 1.2 million AIDS orphans, and the traditional Zulu ceremonies that Ntombeleni's family holds to combat her illness in their own way. Illustrating the bittersweet reality of the situation, through both the miracle of survival and the tragedy of falling victim to an overwhelmed medical system, Thing With No Name reveals the private and public obstacles that have led to an out of control epidemic. While the harrowing reality of the disease is offset by the gorgeous natural surroundings and the quiet humor of these resilient women, the film pays witness to a strength of will undone by a lack of resources and support, while it urgently makes the case for a more hopeful future.
Praise for Thing With No Name:
"[This] understated, well-composed documentary contrasts the beauty of the land and the strength of its women with the inexorable advance of the pandemic." -Variety
"Friedland's [first feature] film boasts the intimate restraint of a seasoned filmmaker, supporting itself with beautiful cinematography and the power of humanity." -indieWIRE
"Undeniably beautiful to look at and powerfully poetic." -Spout.com
"Friedland explores the humanity surrounding an astounding epidemic."-MTV
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