Screening “The Carrier”

Mutinta Mweemba

"The Carrier"

Recently I hosted a screening in Boston of a remarkable documentary chronicling the impact of HIV on families in sub-Saharan Africa. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and the Harvard Undergraduate Global Health Forum co-sponsored a viewing of the film “The Carrier” by first-time filmmaker Maggie Betts.

For me, this film brought to life our mission to bring an end to pediatric AIDS worldwide, one family at a time.

Betts captured a rarely told story, observing the regular trials of a family in rural Zambia. This includes marriage, children, and work – but also the omnipresent threat of HIV.

Through the documentary, we’re introduced to a young mother, Mutinta. She has married into a family of subsistence farmers, but has also discovered that she is not her husband’s only wife. Mutinta is the second of three wives, and must negotiate the challenges of a traditional, polygamous marriage.

Life is further complicated when Mutinta and multiple family members learn that they have been infected with HIV – and Mutinta also learns that she is pregnant. She is a carrier both of the burden of HIV, but also the hope of the next generation.

Maggie Betts and her crew spent several months living with the family in Zambia, and recorded everything from seething anger to anxious anticipation, from new life to unexpected death. All these emotions were shared by the intimacy of the camera, with the interpreter and film crew accepted as “part of the family.” In fact, the filmmaker was so much a part of the family that Mutinta would name her daughter, whose birth is captured during the film, Maggie.

Although separated by time, miles, cultures, and languages, the story of this family is not unlike that of other families around the world. It is the story of the intimate relationships that come with being part of a family, and about the struggle to prevent the next generation from having to live with HIV.

Those involved in the film were not actors. According to the filmmaker, they had never even seen a movie. The dialogue is real and intimate, spoken without self-conscious regard for the camera.

We’re lucky to have partnered with Maggie Betts to help bring the “The Carrier” to audiences across the country – in Boston, Dallas, and most recently, Atlanta.

The emotions and messages of the film create a beautiful platform for discussing our work, and our mission to end pediatric AIDS.  I urge you to see this incredible film, and to get involved by joining A Mother’s Fight.

Dr. Ric Marlink is the Foundation’s Senior Adviser for Scientific and Medical Affairs, based in Los Angeles and Boston.