Posts filed under 'The Bicycle'
My cellphone rang and the display read James Fraser.
“Didn’t he just leave for Malawi last week?” I thought as I answered the phone.
“Hi Kat!” James bellowed. A joyous chorus of women’s voices sang in the background. “I’m in Malawi! I’m at Sakata Village celebrating the opening of the community centre in honour of Pax. You wanna talk to Emmie? She’s asking about you!”
“Katie. How are you?” Emmie, Pax’s wife and colleague in the HIV-support programme, was on the other line. So close suddenly, so near. “Don’t forget about us!” she said.
Hearing her. Hearing the jubilant voices from Sakata Village rising. How could we forget. Just today, we were planning more action with The Bicycle. So more to come. More to honour Pax, Emmie and their life’s work.
The voice on the other line: Emmie Chingawale. Portrait taken by Chikundi during photovoice training, 2005
November 1st, 2007
A still from another bicycle film, screening with our film THE BICYCLE.
Our film THE BICYCLE rides into the T-Dot along with the whole Bicycle Film Festival, with a screening this Saturday, August 25, 5 pm, at the newly refurbished Royal Cinema. Bicycle valet service available!!
The traveling festival will then make its way to Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Vienna, London, Barcelona, Roma, Milano, Sydney, Melbourne and Tokyo later this year. (It’s already hit NYC, Los Angeles, Paris and Chicago).
And speaking of our film, THE BICYCLE, it just picked up “best of the fest” at the WILDsound monthly fest. Moderator, and Globe and Mail film critic, Liam Lacey said of the film, “a sophisticated piece of short documentary film-making. I have a lot of respect for it.”
August 23rd, 2007
Fall at Filmmaker-in-Residence is taking shape.
We have two new films launching (I am about to officially hand-off one rough cut to the animators this morning). We’re building a big photo/sound installation - launching alongside the much anticipated Street Health Report. We’ll be announcing a contest soon featuring The Bicycle and some of Canada’s hottest music artists. We have invites to Montreal, Boston, Yellowknife, Sweden, Venice and Down Under. And… we’ll be updating our website with two new chapters. Woo hoo.
August 9th, 2007
We are all in shock. We are all mourning.
Pax Chingawale, our friend, colleague, inspiration and hero of The Bicycle, died yesterday.
Pax was a Malawian AIDS activist, who so kindly — and courageously — invited me into his home and life to make a film about his and Dignitas’ fight against AIDS. I was so moved when he told me of the time he learned about his HIV-status. He said he couldn’t stay quiet for long. He chose to speak out about his condition in the face of great fear, stigma and even hatred amongst his neighbours and friends. With such sadness, he told me that for many months they stigmatized him, but little by little, he earned their trust.
“Every minute of my life is full of HIV activities and I’ve seen a change in many people now. They respect me and they themselves are questioning whether they have HIV/AIDS or not. So there is a very big impact, ” he said.
On our last day together, we had such a blast filming him riding his bicycle around his neighbourhood. I hung out of the back of a van with the camera, as he rode his bike, behind us, then beside us, then behind us again. We were at it for over an hour, trying to co-ordinate the speed of the van with the speed of the bike, while trying to catch the magical light of the African sunset. He had such a wide smile on his face, his neighbours calling out to him, lovingly teasing him and laughing.
Yesterday afternoon, Pax was hit by a truck while he was driving a motorcycle on the highway back towards Domasi, in Zomba, Malawi. He was returning from a meeting with the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Pax was taken to Zomba District Hospital (where Dignitas runs its ARV clinic) but he died several hours later during emergency surgery.
Only a few days ago I had received such a wonderful email from him (please see the blog post just below).
Pax was doing so well. His hard work was only just coming to fruition. He had plans to build a community building right beside his house on his property to better support the 204 orphans and 134 HIV/AIDS patients he and his wife Emmie had taken under their care. He was so happy that he had been recently hired on as staff for Dignitas International.
This is such a terrible loss for so, so many: his wife Emmie, their children and grandchildren, for his community, for Dignitas and for all of us who had come to know his gentle strength and his fierce generosity. May his spirit live on in all of us, and may he continue to inspire us all.
July 26th, 2007
As I was taking his photo, I asked Chief Kuntumanji what books he had on that chair beside him. “I have the Bible, and the Koran. I read both books. I have music. Gospel music. As a chief, I consult many traditional books as well.”
News from Pax in Malawi today. George Kuntumanji, the head traditional Chief in Pax’s area has died of cancer. Pax mourns, “SAPAAO, the AIDS organization which I started, has lost a very good supporter. He was one of my Trustees.”
But Pax’s other news is all very promising:
“To begin with, I wish to tell you that Emmie and I, including the children and grandchildren are all well. We still have good memories of your stay at our village…
Thirdly, I wish to tell you that I am building an office and multipurpose hall at my place so that AIDS activities can now be done in a formal way.I wish to separate my personal life and that of my organization.My wife is now the Co Director of SAPAAO. She is running the organization, assisted by 10 Home BASED CARE VOLUNTEERS who are fully trained by Dignitas. By September 2007 the office complex will be in operation. Ask me where I have got the money?.I have pledged 50% of my Salary from my work with Dignitas to assist my community fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic.As long as I continue my work with Dignitas I will do every thing possible to contribute something for the good of People living with HIV/AIDS in my community.
Lastly, but not the least, the Malawi Government has approved my Proposal for ten bicycles,cooking oil and nutritious foods and the purchases of opportunist infection drugs through Global funds amounting to just above 4 million Malawi Kwacha for a period of 2 years.However we are yet to see when theses funds will start coming to us.The main point is that our Government has finally come to recognize us as a local based Organisation that is fighting the AIDS pandemic. It will be folly of me if I can not recoganise the role Dignitas and you personally has played in supporting me personally and my grouping in particular.
My organization is now looking after 204 orphans and 134 HIV/AIDS patients.”
July 16th, 2007
The great thing about having a short film in a festival is discovering the films with which you co-screen.
Our film, The Bicycle plays at the Bicycle Film Festival on May 20, 3:30 pm, with three other interesting films including Hunger in the City ( a short about people using bikes in downtown LA to deliver food to the homeless) and Ayamye: Goodness, Kindness, Generosity (about the impact of recycled bikes in Ghana).
May 1st, 2007
I thought May would be quiet-er month to be spent in the editing room, but its turning into a busy-ish May for Filmmaker-in-Residence:
Back by popular demand!
The National Post called it “Remarkable”!
The Photoblogger’s I WAS HERE Photo Exhibit returns to Toronto for the Contact Photo Festival, the largest festival of its kind in North America. For the whole month of May, we remount the 29 pieces of art at the Mediatheque, 150 John St. And I’ve just today been invited to participate on a CONTACT panel on May 13th to discuss how documentary and photography can be used as tools for change in the inner city.
Our little film that could, THE BICYCLE, rides on, in New York City, with other fine films about Bicycles in the BICYCLE FILM FESTIVAL, May 16-20. “We’re a festival that celebrates the bicycle. We’re into all styles of bikes and biking. If you can name it - Tall Bike Jousting, Track Bikes, BMX, Alleycats, Critical Mass, Bike Polo, Cycling to Recumbents - we’ve probably either ridden or screened it.” Now, they’re into bicycle-ambulances too.
Check out our booth about I WAS HERE at the Innovations in Health Care Expo Booth at the CNE grounds on the May 23-24 weekend.
At the end of the month, May 28, watch for us and our collaborators Subject Matter at the Canadian New Media Awards Gala Event, where winners are announced. We are the only website up for two awards!
April 21st, 2007
An important new book is hitting bookstands soon, and it’s getting high praise.
“The best book ever written about AIDS,” says Stephen Lewis, ”Certainly the best book I’ve ever read.”
Stephanie Nolen’s 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa chronicles the African AIDS crisis through the stories of 28 individuals living with and fighting the disease. Nolen chose 28, one for each of the million people on the continent infected with AIDS.
One of Nolen’s 28 is Alice Kadzanja, an HIV-positive nurse working with Dignitas International, at Zomba District hospital in Malawi. You may remember Alice from our film The Bicycle, and our chapter about Dignitas on our website.
In fact, Nolen met and interviewed Alice the same time I was filming with her. I recall Alice laughing shyly as she went from one interview to the other, all the while juggling patients at the bustling clinic.
Alice, together with the other 27 from across the continent (including a truck-driver, an orphan, a prostitute and a political activist) are the human stories - and the heroes - behind the inhuman statistics of the African AIDS crisis.
The book comes out April 24.
Dignitas Head Nurse Alice Kadzanja
April 5th, 2007
Pax, the central character in The Bicycle, has sent me good news via his son, John.
John is back at a computer and e-mailable now that he’s returned to university in town for his last semester studying engineering (this year he’s looking at soil stabilization).
“Pax has now been fully been employed with Diginitas International,” John writes. “This is good to our family and many others. He himself is over the moon as this is a sign of his committal both to the society and Diginitas as an organization.”
And remember the bicycle-ambulance that Pax was talking about?
John reports that Pax’s group of volunteers “Now has two bicycle ambulances [one from Diginitas and the other from Self Help International.] In fact much is happening, and if this will continue then Pax’s volunteer group will one day cover the whole district of Zomba.”
I’m over the moon about all this too.
March 17th, 2007
Last night I briefly attended a wine-tasting event at a top Toronto resto. I don’t even drink wine, but the event was in honour of old friends of mine: Dignitas International. Little over a year ago, I was in Malawi with them, filming their work on the ground battling HIV/AIDS during a threatened famine.
So as I watched my resulting film The Bicycle, on a loop projected on the wall by the bar last night, I was acutely reminded of the tidal wave of social entrepreneurship washing over the western world. Here I was in a room full of people actively supporting the fight against AIDS in the developing world – and they were all in pin-striped suits and ties, sipping on pinot grigio.
Dignitas’ James Fraser and James Orbinski aren’t the first venture social entrepreneurs I’ve known. Gillian Caldwell of Witness (featured in a film I made with pw), was called “A Do-Gooder with a Spreadsheet” by The New York Times last month, during her 4th visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Social Entrepreneurism is the application of market capitalism to make the world a better place. The focus is not just on the collective good, but also on individual return. In Social Entrprenueurism, high-risk investment can bring about tangible, annual returns: Feeling Good simply by Doing Good is definitely one, but the language of success also demands a huge focus on Positive Outcomes. Results. Accomplishments.
So Social Entrepreneurs come out with annual reports that often make multi-national corporations look like amateur dabblers, with pie charts, stats, multi-media powerpoint presentations in crisp, rational terms that “just make sense”. But instead of measuring profit, they’re measuring saved lives, changed laws, improved health, or literacy rates and positive social, political interventions.
But Social Entrepreneurism also illuminates the urgent and heavy reality that government and taxation is just not a reality for solving the world’s ills. Especially on a global scale.
Ironically, though, a lot of the “positive outcomes” of social entrepreneurism are about building government and infrastructure in the developing world. James Fraser told me in Malawi last year: ‘We can’t solve the AIDS crisis in the world without a government.” And a lot of the goals that social entrepreneurs strive for are about pushing for legislative and judicial change. So it really is ironic that in the north, we’ve become so cynical, skeptical about government.
Now I gotta run. To a meeting - in yet another twist of irony in this blog post - with one of this town’s best corporate fundraisers! More on that soon.
The Bicycle at the bar last night.
February 21st, 2007