"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....
Our first educational screening was scheduled to take place at the New International School of Thailand (NIST) and we had asked Bla, the main character in our film, if he wanted to attend. There were mixed feelings in Baan Gerda if it was a good idea or not however, he is now 18 years old and keen to make his own decisions.
He was excited about the prospect of spending some time in Bangkok and watching himself on the 'big screen'. He had already seen the film and was very happy and proud of his contribution. Watching it in a strange setting with a group of people that you don't know is another proposition entirely, especially when you share your innermost thoughts that you haven't even disclosed to your friends.
The trip was also a good opportunity for Bla to gain some independence and become a little more streetwise. Whilst Baan Gerda offers the most loving and caring environment for the kids, it also presents challenges when they try to re-integrate into normal society. In addition to the everyday obstacles that teenagers have to navigate, these kids will also have to deal with a society that largely discriminates against people with HIV.
We didn't get off to the best of starts as I attempted to meet him at the minivan terminus in central Bangkok, only to find that he was already in a taxi heading towards the hotel. When I finally made it there, I found him hanging around on the street with a a disapproving grin and suggesting that I need to improve my Thai.
His mood soon improved when he saw his hotel room, complete with proper bed, hot shower, air conditioning, and flat screen TV with a gazillion channels. Although it was a modest hotel, he was used to none of these luxuries.
The shock was also evident when we arrived at NIST, which is a far cry from the basic school he attended in the countryside. With modern facilities, state of the art sports pitch, fully equipped theatre, and attended by smart, confident and ambitious students from completely the opposite end of the social scale. A fish out of water is an understatement.
There are plenty of reasons why he should have felt intimidated and uncomfortable however, Bla has a resilience and inner strength that belies his gentle nature and friendly persona. After all, he has coped with a life-threatening illness and a family that abandoned him to die at a hospice. He was also warmly welcomed and made to feel like a person of worth by a very special group of students from the 'Dreams We Believe in' team at NIST.
This group of young adults have been supporting HIV infected children at the Mercy Centre in Klong Toey by visiting them at weekends and developing strong and lasting bonds with them. Their foundation is based on the principles of empathy and dignity, something which the children were not accustomed to.
The DWBI team took on the responsibility of organising a morning screening of Living with the Tiger for 300 students, followed by an evening event for parents, teachers and the general public.
Apart from demonstrating their organisational and marketing skills, they also established themselves as role models in dealing with a problem in our society that most people don't want to talk about. Adults please take note.
Bla spent 3 days with the team and chatted to students, blue-collar staff, teachers and the school principle. He was taken out shopping, invited back for a football match and even sampled the delights of a KFC (which he said he won't be eating again).
Both screenings were a success and proved to be very powerful. It's difficult to describe the emotion and feeling that an audience has without sounding contrived. Suffice to say that the lengthy standing ovation that Bla received when he was introduced to the audience after the evening screening led to a few eyes filling up, including my own. We hope to be able to post some comments shortly from people who attended the events.
After taking Bla back to Baan Gerda, he wanted to tell the rest of the children there about his experiences and how he had been accepted. Not only does he want to attend more screenings of the film but he also wants to find his own way of doing something special for the younger kids in the village.
Bla has always known that he is loved and supported by everyone in Baan Gerda. Now he knows that he also has a role to play in this life.
- Phuket Gazette
- The Nation
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