When Andrew Jenks first set out to film a fresh documentary on HIV, he knew he had a unique task at hand.
“Not very often do you get a challenge to make a movie that a lot of people would say is focused on a topic that is stale and that people really aren’t talking about,” said Jenks in an interview with Indiewire before the world premiere screening of his film. “AIDS is still such a global problem and epidemic I feel like my generation isn’t talking much about and clearly should be.”
As an award-winning documentarian and MTV star, Jenks is the perfect person to present this issue in a new and relevant way. His documentary, “It’s Not Over,” makes what would be a tired topic appealing to young people by telling the stories of three millennials whose lives are impacted by HIV. The subjects hail from diverse backgrounds and different corners of the globe, from South Africa to India to the U.S.
Paige Rawl is an American college student and long-time activist for HIV awareness. She’s been living with the virus since she was born and hopes young people can relate to her role in the film.
“Youth and teens are not realizing that it has become such a big issue today. They think it can’t happen to them,” said Rawl. “Hopefully seeing this film they’ll see I look just like them, I do all the same things. The only difference is I have this one little thing about me: the fact that I’m HIV+…If (this film) can save just one life then everything I’ve been through will be worth it.”
Sarang Bhakre comes from a very different background on the opposite side of the globe. His home country of India had recently criminalized homosexuality before filming for the documentary began. He lives his life as an openly gay, HIV+ playwright, and his portion of the film follows the rehearsal and debut of his play about gay marriage. Even in face of the potential backlash from his community, Sarang chose to be open with his story.
“If I won’t talk, who will?” he recalled asking himself before signing on to do the film. “Because if everyone is thinking the same way then someone has to start the process. We’re just starting the process; more people will now come out and tell their stories.”
This film comes at a time when young people need it most. Fourteen to 24-year-olds is the only age group where HIV cases continue to rise in America. This statistic is especially startling compared with what we know about youth awareness on the subject. Ninety percent of U.S. teens don’t think they’re at risk for contracting HIV and one in three teens don’t even know it’s an STD.
“What’s discouraging to us is there is this feeling like the epidemic is over,” said Nancy Mahon, global director of the MAC AIDS Fund, a partner on the film. “What we’re trying to do here is make AIDS relevant again to young people.”
“It’s Not Over” is available to stream today via Netflix, Pivot and Snagfilms where available. On December 1st, World AIDS Day, the film will be available on Netflix in 13 different countries.