The Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival explores how homophobic laws and policies affect not only human rights but also the broader response to the HIV AIDS epidemic.
The festival is presented in partnership with ACMI - the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the Victorian AIDS Council and Living Positive Victoria.
So what about the festival title, Outrage HIV?
Presenter: Sen Lam
Speaker: Edwin J Bernard, coordinator, HIV Justice Network and curator of the Outrage HIV Film Festival. The festival runs from 18 - 21 July in Melbourne
BERNARD: Well, I think for two reasons. The film-makers who have made the ten films that were showing, have all been outraged by the injustices that they are portraying in their films. The idea, though, is that the audience will also be outraged, be moved in different ways by the contents of the films and by the discussions and the Q&As with the directors afterwards. To actually perhaps, not just think about the issue of the injustices associated with HIV, but perhaps to do something as well.
LAM: So you speak of the audience, and of hopefully getting them to find the message. May we describe it as activism as entertainment - because you have to engage them, haven't you?
BERNARD: Absolutely. I think that's a very good way to describe the concept of the film festival. It's the first time that we've actually, as far as I'm aware, that there's ever been a collection of films specifically around this issue, of punitive laws and policies, aimed at people living with HIV and the people most affected by HIV.
Showing the real stories behind the headlines. I think many of the media reports of, for example, prosecutions of people who've allegedly transmitted HIV have been quite sensational - sensationalised, as well. Many of the films, as well as the panel discussions, will be looking beneath those headlines, looking a the human face of the stories of the people affected. But yes, I think in the end, the idea is that we are in some ways, advocates and activists, trying to change the status quo.
LAM: So, talk us through briefly, what's on offer, what films have you got?
BERNARD: Well, there are four themes over three evenings. So the first theme is Women's Injustices - that's the Friday night. There're two documentaries, one from Sweden and one from Greece. Both of them are incredibly beautifully made documentaries about the impact of laws in those countries on women who're living with HIV, and the way that the state has controlled their lives.
The way the media misrepresented the kind of people they are, as well as some of the broader political issues, particularly in Greece - around the reasons why these women in Greece were arrested, prosecuted, tested for HIV and treated as the worst possible people in the country - during a time of economic crisis.
LAM: There're many countries where there is 'state-sponsored homophobia'?
BERNARD: Oh, absolutely. And unfortunately, that seems to be increasing, particularly .. we've seen new laws in Uganda, in Russia, Jamaica.. so one of the films on the Monday night, we're focussing on two very brave individuals - a gay man and a lesbian in Jamaica, who are challenging Jamaica's government and its culture, around its state-sponsored homophobia. I think of the incredibly brave people - in Uganda, the people in Russia - people doing this work, there're several countries in the Asia Pacific also, where homophobia and or the treatment of sex-workers, or people who use drugs, is really quite draconian. And it does take an awful lot of courage.
LAM: Speaking as an advocate and an activist, how helpful is it that the audience gets to meet some of the film-makers after a screening?
BERNARD: Well, I think it's crucially important. And it isn't just film-makers who'll be at the film festival. Several of the people who were prosecuted and appear in some of the films will be here too. So you're not only meeting the film-makers who have worked, spent time with these people, but actually some of the people themselves.
I think they're putting a human face on a headline, or a concept of this 'other person' these 'bad people' and actually meeting somebody who's been through this, and appreciating that they're just like us. That they're human beings living with a virus, trying to get on with their lives. To appreciate that we're all in fact, the same.
LAM: Over three decades later, do you think the general public is better informed about HIV AIDS - Do you think the hysteria has died a little bit?
BERNARD: I think that there's a different kind of feeling around HIV. It may not be hysteria, but I think the concept of stigma - HIV in many ways is still as stigmatised as it was thirty years ago.
LAM: Why is that so - why is it not like TB, or Dengue fever or Malaria or any other disease?
BERNARD: Well I think it's combination of things. I think because it has traditionally been associated with marginalised, vulnerable populations that are not associated with being part of the mainstream... so gay men, people who use drugs, sex-workers - people who are seen as 'other'.
And I think there's this idea that HIV only affects other people, and perhaps bad people.
And then there's also this fear of contagion, which I think was possibly greater thirty years ago, but I think in many ways people still don't appreciate the incredible scientific advances in terms of the way that treatment has not only improved people's lives, and the quality of life and life expectancy, but also reduces someone's infectiousness.
There's still a lot of misinformation about how difficult it actually is, for someone to acquire HIV.