An Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing faculty member at IUPUI has been awarded a $44,000 Indiana University New Frontiers grant to produce a series of short films addressing issues of HIV stigma that will be shot in Kenya involving MOI University faculty and students.
“Derived from real-life scenarios of HIV-infected youths, these films will empower and support those with HIV by generating empathy, fostering understanding and confronting community stereotypes and false beliefs,” said Thomas Lewis, a Media Arts and Science lecturer. “The films will be used in AMPATH counseling and support groups, but they will find a larger social impact with screenings in schools and churches throughout Kenya and other Sub-Saharan countries.”
According to Lewis, ethnographic filmmakers have long sought to directly involve the film’s subject and surrounding community in the telling of their own stories. The resulting films–far richer, accurate and culturally aware than otherwise possible– are products of relinquished control over film direction and a creative process guided by diverse perspectives and opinions.
This project seeks to use these participatory techniques, but for the creation of narrative films that engage with the issues of HIV stigma as they pertain to youth and African audiences, Lewis said. “This is a novel approach to the creation of narrative films.”
An advisory team will direct the project. Team members include Lewis; co-principal investigator Jeanette Dickerson-Putman, IU School of Liberal Arts; Christopher Odhiambo, Moi University; Rachel Vreeman, Indiana University School of Medicine, and selected HIV+ youth.
Students from the Media Arts and Science program have the opportunity to be part of the pre and post production crew through Independent Study, writing stories and editing films. They also have the opportunity to work with faculty and students from Moi University in Kenya to develop the stories.
Currently, Lewis and his local team conduct regular meetings with their partners in Kenya via Skype, during which they are refining the logistics of their international collaboration and formulating the stories to be developed into scripts. This summer Lewis and his team will spend 5 weeks in Eldoret shooting the resulting scripts. Upon their return they will enlist Tyler Sapp, a Media Arts and Science student, to assist in editing a portion of the seven films as part of his Capstone experience fall 2015.
With the New Frontiers grant, Lewis will continue work he began in January of 2012 when he received an IU International Development Fund Grant to launch a collaborative partnership with the Kenya-based HIV pediatric research program of the Department in Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Lewis spent 10 days in Eldoret, Kenya working with local crew and actors to produce eight short videos that addressed issues around disclosure of HIV status to children.
IU’s Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities funding helps IU faculty members by supporting the initial stages of path-breaking and transformative programs of scholarly investigation or creative activity.