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deepsouth, a New HIV/AIDS Documentary, Premieres This July

June 4, 2012

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Last week, the Internet was buzzing about the trailer for a new documentary about HIV in the South. The film, deepsouth, follows a young, black, gay man from the Mississippi Delta who is doing his best to endure the stigma and homophobia; two best friends who are preparing for their annual HIV retreat in rural Louisiana; and an Alabama activist who travels throughout the country speaking her truth.

View the trailer: caught up with the film's director, Lisa Biagiotti, to talk about what prompted her to make deepsouth, the process of getting people living with HIV to participate and what she hopes viewers take away from her labor of love.

What made you want to do this film? And why the South?

In 2009, I was working on some stories on the intersection of HIV and homophobia in Jamaica when I stumbled upon some appalling HIV statistics in the American South.

I was a little stunned, because I had thought HIV/AIDS was under control in the U.S. I read research report after research report, analyzed stat after stat. In June 2010, I made my first road trip (of 12) across the South and simply started talking to people -- anyone and everyone.

In the past few years, several research organizations have been examining HIV, health infrastructure and poverty in the South, so there's a lot of new data and good momentum behind exposing some of these issues. But there seemed to be a disconnect between these numbers and the experience. So we really set out to document the experience, the reality behind all these data points.


Why had you believed that HIV was under control in the U.S.?

I think it's generally thought that the fight against AIDS in the U.S. is largely over. Most of the mainstream media coverage focuses on the global epidemic. The domestic coverage looks at the epidemic from the limiting lens of an urban scourge. There's an abnormal history of HIV in the South, one which few people even know. When I tell people I'm working on a documentary about HIV in the Deep South, the overwhelming response is: "You mean the Deep South of the United States?"

Stigma is huge everywhere, but the South can be its own entity. Was it difficult to find people who wanted to take part in the film? And were all of the people who were positive who participated advocates who did HIV-related work?

I reported in the South for at least a year before we started filming our main subjects. I drove 13,000 miles, filled 18 notebooks and interviewed 400 people in the process.

The more I showed up, the more people were willing to talk to me. I started piecing together parts of this fragmented, disjointed and vast story. Many people I spoke with would never appear on camera. The stories they shared with me became the invisible backbone of deepsouth.

Trip after trip, producer/DP Duy Linh Tu and I asked each other questions like: How do we visually document an invisible story? How do we effectively tell a story no one wants to talk about? Is this just better as a magazine article? The evolution of our storyboard is almost comical. A lot of rabbit holes and dead ends!

It took some time for our main subject, Josh (who is young and gay and black), to agree to go on camera. We originally concealed his identity, because his mom didn't want him potentially exposed to harm and scrutiny. When we showed Josh the "Secrets" clip, he basically convinced himself to be a part of the film. He's an incredibly brave man.

Not all of the people featured in the film are advocates. In fact, most of them are not advocates. One of the story lines takes place at an HIV retreat in northern Louisiana, where about 70 Southerners affected by HIV come together for the three-day retreat. Another story line ends up at a 30-person, gay family BBQ in Jackson, Miss.

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This article was provided by TheBody.
See Also
HIV/AIDS in the South

Reader Comments:

Comment by: MJ (Center of the Boot) Thu., Jun. 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm UTC
Big ups to Duy Linh Tu and Joe Lindquist....I love Deepsouth so far...and a hug thanks to Lisa. We Love you here in the south.
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