Marshall concludes AIDS trilogy

Liz Marshall says she looked to the example of Allan King and his doc Dying at Grace during the seven-week shoot for Women: The Face of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.

The short is the final film in a trilogy from the Stephen Lewis Foundation about how AIDS has devastated African women and children, and profiles five HIV-positive women in four countries. She was inspired by Grace, which she notes respectfully captured the patients of a palliative care unit without too much crafting and unnecessary dramatization.

Marshall kept the women’s voices in the picture, opting to translate the over 72 hours of footage in eight African languages into English subtitles, with the help of local African communities and the University of Toronto.

‘Hearing their stories firsthand is essential to the storytelling as a way to avoid objectification,’ says Marshall, who directed and produced. This method was also employed in the trilogy’s other films, Grandmothers: The Unsung Heroes of Africa and A Generation of Orphans.

Marshall has worked with the non-profit group War Child Canada on the MuchMusic doc Musicians in the War Zone, and was personally selected by Lewis’ son and the trilogy’s exec producer Avi Lewis. She worked with DOP Steve Cosens (Durham County) and sound editor Garrett Kerr to capture the real lives of the film’s subjects.

Marshall and fellow producer Leslie Thomas relied on sponsorships from post-production facilities Technicolor, Crush and Tattersall Sound and Picture to complete the half-hour film, which will debut at the Vancouver rep theater The Ridge on Oct. 18.

Despite the financial hurdles, Marshall says working on charitable docs allows a filmmaker to express her own voice. It is not a voice everyone will hear, however. As HIV still faces stigma and discrimination, the trilogy will not be distributed in Africa.