"Quietly, a great film was made"Lee Grant - Oscar Winning Actress and Director
"Hugely empowering and uplifting"Greg Lowe - CNNgo
"Should be mandatory viewing"Jim Pollard - The Nation
Living With The Tiger is an intimate and moving story about a group of HIV infected orphans in Thailand that have been abandoned by society. The story focuses on two of the children over a period of 3 years, and highlights the problems they encounter as they try to re-integrate back into their communities. Despite their traumatic experiences, they embark on the most unlikely of ventures for a group of teenagers from the countryside; a performance in an opera....
Many people have been asking about Bruce Gaston's musical 'A Boy and a Tiger'. The original première was meant to be a couple of years ago but it kept getting delayed for numerous reasons.
Finally, we are delighted that it will now take place on May 5th from 7- 9 PM at Impact Arena, Bangkok. About 12 of the children will feature in the musical and they have been busy rehearsing every day for the last month.
The story is inspired by the book 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel who received the Booker Prize for his novel in 2002. It features a young boy named Pi Patel and his journey across the ocean and how to survive on a small life boat that has a 450 pound Bengal Tiger.
In addition to the Baan Gerda children, the lead singers and the musicians who will be taking part in this performance come from different international schools and music colleges in Bangkok. They are also joined by Myra Maneepatsorn Molloy, the winner of Thailand‘s got Talent 2011.
The event is being sponsored by Rotary as part of their international convention that runs from May 5th- 8th 2012. Tickets cost $25 and any profits will go to supporting Baan Gerda. Bookings can be made through Khun Moo -
Our recent media event and VIP screening of the film was held at the Enigma Theatre, Paragon in Bangkok to coincide with World AIDS Day. As part of the programme some of the children from Baan Gerda performed a short dance routine for the special guests and press. Tata Young kindly volunteered her time to support the project and chatted to the kids on stage, and also spoke to the audience about the stigma faced by people living with HIV.
MC Kipsan Beck, a long-term supporter of Baan Gerda, ensured that the tone of the event was upbeat and the main message was one of hope. Dr. Anthony Pramualratana from the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS spoke about this year’s World AIDS Day theme; 0-0-0 or zero AIDS related deaths, zero new HIV transmission and zero stigma and discrimination.
Support from Major Cineplex, Krungsri Bank and Coke allowed us to hold the event and organise the current film tour taking place around Thailand. The Mangpong DVD store chain are selling the Living with the Tiger DVD (with English subtitles) and donating all profits back to the outreach campaign and Baan Gerda. It can also be purchased from 38 shops around the country or their website
Other guests included His Excellency Ron Hoffman, Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Khun Vicha Phoolworaluck-Chairman of the Major Cineplex Group, Karl Morsbach founder of Baan Gerda, Kittiyajai Treeakewijit-Chairperson of the Pongsup Group Ltd. (Mangpong) and Dan Harsono-Chief Marketing Officer, Krungsri Bank.
Photos from the event
A few weeks ago, one of our friends at the Thailand Business Coalition on AIDS told me about an incident that happened at a restaurant the previous day. She was talking with a few colleagues about HIV-related matters when they noticed a group that had been sitting next to them got up and re-located to another table outside. A little while later, the restaurant manager told her that they had overheard the discussion and decided to move because they thought she and her colleagues might be infected.
It’s disappointing to hear these kinds of stories and it makes you realize how much ignorance and fear still exists, and how difficult it will be for the Baan Gerda kids in the future. Fortunately, the students who have been watching the film recently are far more open minded and accepting, none more so than at Phranakon Rajabhat University where we had 3 screenings.
There was one special moment that happened after a Q & A session that most of us will remember; Thai culture frowns upon any show of affection in public, so when one of the students gave Bla a hug it made a very strong statement, all the more so that she did it in front of 150 of her peers. Watch the video above to see the embarrassed reaction from Bla.
The screenings were only made possible because of the enthusiasm and understanding of Ajarn Dave and Dr Sirinan. They knew that it was something that the students could learn from and they worked hard to arrange the events and ensure the students attended. As Dave mentioned, the only minor disappointment was the reaction of some teachers who didn’t get it - “why are we showing it and what subject does it relate to?” This seems to be a commonly held view with schools in Thailand who generally avoid anything taboo or related to sex education.
The reaction from the students was incredibly supportive, especially from the young lady in the video who stood up and so eloquently addressed Bla “We know that you want us to understand you and your point of view, and now you've done it. Everyone in this room has changed their point of view of HIV infected people.”
It’s a sharp contrast to the ignorant and bigoted attitudes of the adults in the restaurant who had obviously decided that it wasn’t safe to sit next to people who were talking about HIV.
Wow. Living with the Tiger plays in a glitzy cinema on Singapore's Orchard Rd. Who would have thought it? Somehow, it almost feels wrong playing in the next theatre to Brad Pitt's latest mega-bucks flick. The shallow and vanity-ridden world of Hollywood is a long way from a financially-challenged foreign language documentary about a taboo subject. So, thank you Singapore Film Festival for this special occasion.
We also had the opportunity to show the film at several colleges and universities over the course of 10 days. What struck me the most with both the teachers and students was the hunger for knowledge and the desire to learn, even about a subject that most people had absolutely no connection with. Many of the schools welcomed the opportunity to show the film to their students and engage them in conversation about the topic. Come on Thai schools... we're offering you the chance to show the film to your students, meet Bla in person and hopefully, to educate them about HIV and stigma FREE OF CHARGE. Carpe Diem (I'm guessing this phrase doesn't exist in Thai).
Special mention should go to the pupils at the Australian International School. When I found out that we were screening to 0 12 and 13 year olds I was concerned that they were too young and would lose interest. The Q & A session is usually a good indicator of how attentive and how much the audience have understood the film, so I was pleasantly surprised by the number of questions and what they were asking about.
The students from the Community Service Club at Temasek Polytechnic also deserve credit for organising and promoting their screening. Although it was the school holidays, they managed to attract nearly 250 students which is quite remarkable. Our best screenings are always student-led.
The only disappointment? We had been planning to take Bla but he was unable to get a passport in time because he didn't have a parent or legal guardian to sign the paperwork. Hopefully, next time.
Thanks to Susie Solomon from the Business Coalition on Aids Singapore, who helped us during the Q & A sessions and provided us with HIV expertise.
'Tiger' takes another step forward after being selected into the Singapore Film Festival next month. It will be our international première. The Festival, now in its 24th year, is the largest and longest-running in the country and one of the most important in the region. The festival programme has a strong line-up and includes an Oscar winning film, a 3-D documentary, and the latest drama featuring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Even though we are really excited at the prospect of showing the film in Singapore, the simple truth is that there are 144 films taking part in the festival and people don't want to watch a foreign language documentary about AIDS. We were obviously surprised when the Straits Times ran a festival-preview feature and 'Tiger' was one of the highlighted films, together with a shot from the film as their main picture.
They describe the film as "One of the more serious Asian offerings at the festival". Yes, it has a serious underlying message but as anyone who has watched the film knows, the kids don't dwell on their plight and certainly don't take themselves too seriously.
The past several months has taught us that promoting the film is an impossible job. There are particular story lines that don't make commercial sense, so we applaud the festival organisers who, for whatever reason, have taken a chance by inviting us. We hope that we don't let them down. Of course, we also hope that we can get the message of the film out to the public.
Do you know anyone in Singapore? If so, you could really help us by getting the word out about the screening. Sometimes the extra efforts that we have to go to in order to find an audience don't make sense. We just know that we have to do it. Please tell your friends and colleagues.
Living with the Tiger plays at the Lido Cineplex on September 22nd
The initial discussions we had about the possibility of involving Bla in the film screenings was met with some reservations. On one hand, we realised that his attendance could help overcome some of the barriers that exist, especially with those in the audience that didn't know anyone with HIV. On the other hand, at just 18 years of age, we didn't want to encourage him to do something that he would later regret.
When we asked him, he was very clear in his own mind that he wanted to participate. However, he didn't want to be on the stage for the post-screening Q&A sessions. How things have changed in just a couple of months.
The first screening he attended had a profound effect on him. Not only was he surprised by the fact that he was accepted by everyone, but the level of support he received was very genuine and touching. His confidence bolstered, the next 2 school screenings saw him on the stage answering questions from the audience. Having his picture taken with admiring girls is something that he will need to get used to!
His gentle nature and charm serve to disarm any doubters that might exist. His innocence and naïvety only compounds the tragedy of his life. He probably isn't fully aware of the influence he is having on the attitudes of others, and the change that is taking place at every screening of the film.
Yet still he is abandoned by family members who should be caring for him. People that have a misinformed view of a disease that is largely shaped by prejudice and ignorance. The changes taking place may not heal the rift with his blood relatives but hopefully, it will be able to provide him with a future that has more opportunities than before. Let us not forget that there are 84 other children in Baan Gerda in the same situation, as well as countless others around the world.
Together with Bla, we have to encourage further change and greater acceptance for those living with this disease.
Over the past year, Bla has expressed his desire to see life outside of Baan Gerda, to become more independent and to have new experiences. Something which will no doubt be common with more of the children as they get older. I promised Bla that I would bring him to Phuket so that he could try surfing and see one of the most beautiful parts of his country. With the help of Khun Jutima from Yoga Thailand Retreat and Wellness Center and Khun Pop Areeya, we were able to do that last week. You can see the pictures from his trip here
I wish we could do the same for the other kids.
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- Phuket Gazette
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