Wednesday, December 01, 2010

In honor of World AIDS Day...a look back

A look back to World AIDS Day 2006, when I was working at a township in South Africa... Entitled, "The Day I finally cried"

hello to all my loved ones out there! I started writing this last
week, when I was still up in Knsyna, but wasn't able to finish it.
It's weird how even one week later, outside of Knysna, the emotions
are less intense, the memories less vivid. I can only imagine what
will happen when I return to the US (in four days!). That's why I
haven't written until now also, because I'm squeezing all the time I
can here, putting closure on things, saying my goodbyes to people and
places....more on that later, first on World AIDS Day, or the day I
finally cried, or the day I call the culmination of my time here in
South Africa.

Yesterday, as all of you know, was World AIDS Day, and in many ways
felt like the culmination of my time here. For two reasons: First,
Beaty, the woman who I have become so close with ( whose sister died
of AIDS when I first met her in April, whose mother died of diabetes
one month later, who has become head of the household, of the soup
kitchen, who came with me to Toronto, who has the most beautiful
daughter, you've heard all this before), in any case, Beaty organized
and mc'ed the township's World AIDS Day event. As I filmed my friend
on stage, speaking passionately and from the heart, I felt such pride
and love. It has been an honor to have become friends with her, to
have seen her in both hard times and in times of hope, to be let into
her family, and to see her emerge as an AIDS activist in her community
and, well after the Toronto Conference, in the world. And in a place
where 30% of people are HIV positive, she is the only one who is open
about her status. Still, though she has many hardships she faces, she
remains hopeful, she has a sense of humour, and she finds her strength
in helping other people. I have never seen her so beautiful and so
powerful as on World AIDS Day, when she released 920 balloons into the
air, one for each person who dies of AIDS in South Africa every day.

I don't usually say statistics, but let me say these again (and as in
the US I know the war in Iraq is the main headliner rather than HIV,
let's remember how many people die in Iraq each day- about 100, which
is still terrible): BUT, 920 people DIE of AIDS in SOUTH AFRICA EVER

The number is still too large to grasp, and yet when I think of Beaty,
of Jennifer- of what a loss a family can face with the death of one becomes more real, more personal, it makes some sort of
sense rather than being lost as a statistic. I hope to somehow convey
that in a film, because I think other people are thirsty for a
different image of "victims of AIDS in Africa"- of people, not numbers
(interesting how "numb" starts "numbers", how we do become numb to

But back to the balloons. I was brought to tears as Mookie (Beaty's
family nickname) let the balloons go and said into the mic, "Let HIV
fly away from our communities, our country, and the world just as
these balloons fly away into the sky."

I have come to truly love this family, and it was very very sad to say
goodbye- how do you say goodbye to someone that you have come to love
and that you may never see again? All we could do was hug and cry.
Oh, and I got little Timmy a puppy named Thandi (meaning Love) to
remember me by, so that's something. ha. It was adorable though, but
not nearly as cute as Timmy, who also cried as I pulled away, somehow
knowing that this would be goodbye for a long time.

The second big reason why World AIDS Day was the culmination of my
time here is because of the short films that the kids at MADaboutART
made. I wasn't sure if we would be able to finish them in time, but
somehow the little geniuses pulled it off and we didn't have any major
technical gliches! We showed the films to about 200 community
children in the township town hall - one about stigma and
discrimnation against those living with HIV, the second about the
importance of not throwing trash int eh community, and the third about
a daughter who is raped by her father and not believed by her mother.
Though the kids chose the stigma and discrimination film as the winner
(because they had funnier characters, mainly Beaty's nephew/now son,
Ebby), the one about the incestuous rape was the one that made me cry.
Before we screened the films publicly, we were watching them at the
center and one of the kids' moms was around and crying because of the
films and by the kids, and who said what an impact they will make on
the community. I have to admit that though I call the kids my little
geniuses and have high expectations for them already- I too am blown
away by how the films turned out, and what type of reaction they are
already getting from people. The power behind these films isn't
dependent on which wins, but ont he process of it, of giving the kids
a voice, and as Beaty says even "if one parent stops and listens, it
is worth it." As i watch the kids watch the films over and over
again, and the older ones picking up editing, I am just so proud (the
films will be up later for all to see!).

A few days ago I met (through various connections) the founder of an
organization called Barefoot Workshops, that runs
film/editing/computer workshops for NGO's around the world and then
gives them the computer and tools to make their own short
documentaries- basically exactly what I loved about being at
MADaboutART. I told them how I would love to do what they do in five
years and the guy said "five years? why not six months?" They were
also blown away by the films that the kids made. One of the women
said to me (she met the kids a few days before at the National Art
Gallery showing of their Rainbow of Hope), "you've lit a spark in
them. It's very obvious how much you have impacted them." Tears came
to my eyes then.

In other news, I got interviewed randomly by BBC radio (also on NPR)
about race in Cape Town with my Kenyan housemate- I'll let you know
when it's broadcast. Also, the MTV film contest- of which Beaty,
Siphiwe, and I were a part of in the Toronto AIDS Conference- showed
across the world on World AIDS Day- did anyone see it?? I didn't but
a friend of mine here said she saw it and that they did end up using
my footage from Knysna!! So that will be great for my resume and is
validating, especially since I just found out that the film has
already won an award for Best Short Narrative! exciting things.

I have so much more to write, and will try to write before I head home
on Monday, about what it's been like to say goodbye, and to reflect on
an amazing, intense, life changing ten months. Until then, I'll be
dancing at two fo the best dj's in the country's shows in Cape Town- I
know I'll miss the dancing here, even as a white girl who has her own
funky dance!

Love to all! Thanks so everyone for writing me, for sending love, for
reading htis, and just for being in my life! I can't wait to hear
everyone's voices next week!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Day in the Life of a Dorot Fellow

This week, we got a taste of the IDF, how it works, how it impacts Israeli society, and the ethical dilemmas it faces.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Repeal Proposition 8

This is my first video art piece (yes, I had to google it too), on display for several months at the Hebrew Union College. Pass along to your friends!

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hatikvah Beat Boxing Video! Happy Birthday Israel!

In celebration of Israel’s 61st birthday, may I present to you Dewdrop Films’ latest collaboration video, “Hope Remixed.” Together with artists and activists from around the world, this “Hativkah” Beat-Boxing video is an expression of hope and optimism, with a new beat. In a time when the image of Israel is too often of war and conflict, “Hope Remixed” celebrates Israel’s diversity, beauty, history, and modernity.

Celebrate with Israel! SEND this video to your family, friends, Facebook friends, tweeters, and any other social networks! And, SHARE your own experiences and messages of hope! UPLOAD your video/photo montage to or text it to

The best video will win my new favorite toy - the Flip MinoHD camera!

This video was produced by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, and will be sent to their various networks, including Hillel professionals, Birthright alumni, Hillel Latin America, FSU, and Israel Fellows. I was honored to be asked to direct their video for the "ICare" campaign to humanize Israel. We are trying to reach 50,000 views for Israel’s birthday, but I say we strive for 61,000!

Happy Birthday Israel! You don't look a day over 60!


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Inauguration Day with Obama and Oprah

The Obama World Tour culminated in an INCREDIBLE Inauguration Day, including meeting the Big O- not Obama, but OPRAH! I somehow found myself about 150 feet away from the podium, where I rolled with the likes of Denzel Washington, Samuel L Jackson, Jesse Jackson, Oprah, and Sarah Silverman.

On Friday, I got a phone call that my buddy had an extra Congressional Ticket to the Inauguration in DC. Though I was supposed to be flying back to LA, I figured out how to get from upstate New York down to DC the Monday before Big Tuesday, and spent the night with two of my best friends from Duke, who had also volunteered on the campaign. Early Tuesday, we took the metro into town, which was already packed with people, cheering and crying. My friends had tickets to a different section, so I was left on my own—I put on my ipod headphones and made my way through the crowds, past security, and onto the Capitol lawn. Once inside, the Israeli in me kicked in, and I wondered how close I could get to the podium. I stealthily maneuvered my way through some gates, over a small wall, and somehow found myself in the VIP section with friends of the Pres. and VP. I looked to one side of me and there was Denzel Washington and Samuel L Jackson, hugging and celebrating the historic moment. I turned then to my other side and only three feet away from me was OPRAH (and Gail). I stood there in disbelief and awe for about ten minutes, until I finally built the courage to talk to her.

“Oprah,” I said, “I just want to shake your hand. Thank you for all the work you are doing in South Africa. It inspired me throughout my ten months living there, and I am now in post-production on a film about my friend’s story of hope living with HIV.”

She gave me the Oprah eyes of compassion, love, and understanding, and squeezed my hand.

I smiled, handed her my card, and thanked her again for all the work she has done.

Then, the big moment had arrived, almost too magnificent to comprehend. After all that our country has been through, the pain and divisions amongst people here was finally a celebration of moving beyond boundaries towards a common goal of hope. Together with 1.8 million others on the Capitol Mall, and millions watching and listening all over the world, I witnessed the swearing in not just a new President, but a new era of American politics and power. I was about 150 feet away from the podium.

As Yo Yo Ma played, I noticed that the woman sitting beside me was good ol’ Sarah Silverman. I have always regretted not talking to her at the “Mechina: A Preparation” DVD release party, and here life had brought her to me again. She remembered seeing the film and we talked about Israel, where her sister lives but she has never visited. She introduced me to her friend and together we smiled, cheered, and cryed.

Writing this now brings tears to my eyes. I know that I can’t expect President Obama to solve all of our many problems, but I believe he can steer our country again in the right direction, and that he can—and already has—inspired millions to be a part of that change. Yes, We Did. Yes, We Will.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Commemorative Poster

Check out my friend Michael Faber's awesome commemorative poster for the new President Obama!!

Friday, October 31, 2008

NC: Faces from the Frontline

MY NEW VIDEO!! A video montage from political battleground state North Carolina in the last weeks of the 2008 Presidential Election. VOTE, VOTE NOW, VOTE OBAMA!

NC: Faces from the Frontlines from Maital Guttman on Vimeo.

Created and Produced By
Maital Guttman and Madeleine Sackler

Photographs by
Maital Guttman and Michael Faber

Music by
Mark Hill