Thursday, 31 July 2008 07:45

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by Jeanne Hallacy
Jamlong Saiyot
color, 50 min, 2002


Filmed over two years at a community hospice in Klong Toey, Thailand, the story unfolds as a thirteen-year-old girl, Luk Nam, recalls the loss of her family to AIDS. Mercy is an unsettling document of another side to the growing AIDS crisis – the future of the children whose parents are HIV-positive or have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Surrounded by orphaned children who have inherited the disease, the filmmakers witness both Luk Nam’s sister and her best friend gradually fade away. Despite the horror of their circumstances, young Luk Nam and the hospice patients and workers show incredible compassion, strength, and hope. Luk Nam’s brave composure is as admirable as it is distressing, as when she assures the viewer: “Right now, I’m alive.”

 

Reviews

Mercy is a powerful and uplifting documentary revealing the everyday life challenges faced by an increasing number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Thailand today. Coping with family loss and the accompanying stigma often places children affected by HIV/AIDS in extremely vulnerable situations. This unprecedented crisis will require scaled-up national, regional and community responses in the decades to come.

—Dr. Peter Piot
UNAIDS Executive Director

Mercy is a realistic and powerful portrayal of the world wide effects of HIV/AIDS on children. It gives us a chance to observe this ongoing crisis first hand. I highly recommend this film for college populations and everyone who wishes to make a difference in the fight against AIDS.

—Scott Butler, MS, CPPE
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mercy is a very moving, beautiful, poignant portrayal of a few years in the life of a very stoic, heroic child under horrendous circumstances. As a physician caring for children with HIV and AIDS for the past 20 years, I felt it showed so graphically the pain and suffering of those affected by but not infected with HIV, those who are living in the shadow of AIDS. Your film was an eye-opening experience for so many in our institution, who tend to forget what family members experience, while the focus is so much on the sick child. Our team was moved to tears by your portrayal of Luk Nam. A number of the pediatric residents and members of the faculty, including one of our ICU physicians, all wrote to me about the film and how grateful they were that you came here and that they were able to attend.

—Ann Petru, M.D.
Associate Physician, Dept of Infectious Diseases
Director, Pediatric AIDS/HIV Program
Children's Hospital & Research Center at Oakland

As one who has been involved with research in and about Thailand for over 40 years and as one who regularly teaches courses on culture and society of Southeast Asia, I found the film Mercy to be very powerful and compelling.

Indeed, I would like to use the film this coming year for my course on "Buddhism and Society." The film is very Buddhist in a more than one way. It is overtly Buddhist in its focus on the compassion (metta, which is glossed as 'mercy') shown by the caregivers who help the children affirm life. But is also implicitly Buddhist in that it makes the experience of suffering central rather than seeking to lay blame for the causes of this suffering. The Buddha said that if one sees a man with an arrow in his eye, one does not ask who shot the arrow before pulling it out to relieve the suffering. The film also raises a question that is deeply troubling for all who are witnesses as reporters, filmmakers, or social scientists to suffering: How can a witness present the stories of those who suffer without being voyeuristic, pornographic, or exploitative. It is clear from the film itself that the filmmaker was not only an observer, but was very much involved in the metta which the film depicts so well.

—Professor Charles Keyes, Anthropology & International Studies
University of Washington, Seattle

Mercy brought together a diverse array of undergraduate, graduate and professional school students from across the University of Washington campus. People in Southeast Asian studies came together with those working in virology, epidemiology, political science, public policy and anthropology. The film's powerful message, along with the sensitive and humane portrayal of the people involved at the clinic led to a lively and meaningful discussion after the film.

Several of those who attended approached me after the event to say how deeply moved they were, and how they would look at and think about the subject of AIDS in a profoundly different way. This film will be as useful for classroom teaching as it will for special events related to AIDS and hospice care. It's a rare film that can do so much in such a meaningful way.

—Sara Van Fleet
Assistant Director of the SE Asia Center
University of Washington

Mercy will move you and gives you a deep and personal insight to the terrible and unfair sufferings that the HIV/AIDS epidemic causes. However, it is also a great testimony to the incredible strength of a small girl deprived of what most of us take for granted: our family, our friends and even basic financial and educational resources.
Together with a group of very dedicated and exceptionally unselfish people at the Mercy Centre in Bangkok, Hallacy shows us that the human spirit is marvelous and that when we support each other it is possible to generate hope even in the darkest of times.

—Ole Schack Hansen
Director, Asia Pacific Development Communication Centre (ADCC)
Dhurakijpundit University
Bangkok, Thailand

Film Festivals & Awards
Premiere, Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, Bangkok, 2002
World AIDS Day screening, UNAIDS, Bangkok, Thailand, 2002
World AIDS Day screening, Mercy Center, Klong Toey, Thailand, 2002
UNESCO Sub Regional Conference on Anticipating the Impact of HIV/AIDS on the Education Sector in Southeast Asia, Thailand, 2002
International Conference on Culture and Context in Development, Bangkok, Thailand, 2002
"Culture, Context and Choice: Issues in Development," organized by SEAMEO-SPAFA, sponsored by UNESCO and the Japan Foundation, Bangkok, Thailand, 2002
SEAMEO-SPAFA Buddhism and HIV/AIDS, Bangkok, Thailand, 2003
Bangkok International Film Festival, 2003
"Sharing Luk Nam’s Story with Thai Communities," Mobile AIDS Awareness Tour, over 75 screenings, Thailand, 2003
4th SIMA Film Festival, Tehran, Iran, 2003
Special Jury Award, Ojai Film Festival, Oak View, California, 2003
University of California - Irvine Human Rights Film Festival, 2003
Durango Film Festival, Colorado, 2003
East Asia Institute of Visual Anthropology Film Festival, Yunnan University, March 2004
Pärnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, Estonia, 2004
Fukuoka Asian Film Festival, Japan, 2004
Pride International Film Festival, Manila, 2004
2004 AIDS Film Festival, Bangkok, 2004
New Zealand International Human Rights Film Festival, 2005

Screenings
University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 2002
The Lighthouse AIDS Hospice, London, 2002
Bangkok University, 2002
Chiang Mai University, 2002
San Francisco State University, 2003
City College of San Francisco, 2003
University of Washington - Seattle, 2003
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, 2003
Maryland Institute College of Arts, Baltimore, 2003
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 2003
Columbia University, New York, 2003
Univeristy of California - Berkeley, 2003
San Francisco Art Institute, 2003
Maitri AIDS Hospice, San Francisco, 2003
Oakland Childrens Hospital, Oakland, 2003
National Broadcast, Thailand, 2003
Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, 2004
Chiang Mai University, Thailand, 2004
Bangkok University, Thailand, 2004
Dhurakitpundit University, Thailand, 2004
Veterans Affairs Hospital, Seattle, December 2003
Psychosocial Medicine rounds, Roosevelt Clinic, University of Washington Medical Center, March 2004
XV International AIDS Conference, Bangkok, Thailand, 2004
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