Home News The web can’t bring people together to fight HIV/AIDS: documentarist

The web can’t bring people together to fight HIV/AIDS: documentarist

by The Concordian October 18, 2011
In our tech-driven world, the key to HIV/AIDS activism still lies in the human body, according to film director and activist Dr. Alexandra Juhasz, who came to Concordia last Thursday as part of the university’s ongoing community lecture series on HIV/AIDS.
“Something happens that’s absolutely imperative for activism in real rooms where people feel things together,” she said, inviting the audience to let their thoughts wander during her lecture “Remembering AIDS Online: Networking, Viruses, Virality, and Arteries,” which analysed the advantages and the shortcomings of the web as a medium for AIDS documentaries and activism.
Juhasz, who has a doctorate in cinema studies from NYU and teaches media studies at Pitzer College in Los Angeles, performed rather than presented her hour-long slideshow of documentary clips and text, occasionally reading aloud quotations from other activists in between gaps of dramatic silence.
However, it was in the Q&A session that Juhasz expressed her real frustrations with using the Internet as a medium for activism, calling it “an unimaginably vast and incredibly powerful resource to bring things together — but not people.”
“I showed you clips of things that are not made to be shown as clips,” said Juhasz, agreeing with one audience member’s complaints that HIV/AIDS documentaries lose effect when viewed in parts, criticizing her own digitally-based presentation for not accurately expressing the complex emotions that these videos should provoke in viewers.
According to Juhasz, the problem is that online information is typically consumed by individuals sitting alone in front of a computer, clicking too rapidly to allow for the deeper thought or emotion to occur. In order to achieve this, she said that people need to interact body-to-body in marches and protests, rather than in sterile environments like online discussion boards or YouTube comments.
She did praise the Internet for helping filmmakers expose their works to a much larger global audience.
“Digital documentaries allow links and movement across boundaries of time and space and material,” said Juhasz.
Because HIV/AIDS documentaries often double as memorials for those featured in them who later die of the virus, uploading these videos to the Internet also serves to archive the memory of those who have been lost.
Juhasz’s lecture was sponsored in part by the Fine Arts Student Alliance and is the first of four upcoming lectures in the 19th annual community lecture series presented by HIV/AIDS Concordia, which also offers a six-credit course on HIV/AIDS for students.
Lecture series coordinator Elvira Parent explained that the guest speakers take the topic of HIV/AIDS “out of the classroom.”
“It allows us to meet with people who are in the field every day, either living with HIV/AIDS or working with people who have it,” said Parent. “In our academic lives, that’s not something we get to do every day.”

The next lecture, “La Republique du traitement: triage et souverainete au temps du sida en Afrique de l’Ouest,” will take place on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. and will be given by Dr. Vinh Kim Nguyen.

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