An engrossing portrait of an uncompromising individual, Brian Tilley’s docu “It’s My Life” spends a few whirlwind months in the company of Zackie Achmat, a former anti-Apartheid activist now devoted to a new cause that’s very close to home: AIDS treatment and prevention. Prickly, dynamic, the South African subject easily sustains interest in this verite docu. Gay fest play aside, vid-shot feature will find natural offshore berth in educational tube sales.
AIDS is a hugely charged issue in S. Africa. An estimated 4.7 million citizens are infected with HIV, while Prez Thabo Mbeki hews to a minority doctrine that doubts the virus as the plague’s cause — and has kept most currently-accepted treatments unavailable as a result. Achmat’s biggest fight during pic’s progress, however, is participation in a legal suit against multinational pharmaceutical companies he believes are profiteering from the epidemic — and preventing vital new drugs from distribution in less exorbitant “off-brand” forms developing nations can afford.
Accustomed to fighting the system as a gay man of color, Achmat is (like many activist trailblazers) a demanding, occasionally difficult personality in his righteous zeal. But none can doubt his sincerity: He refuses medicines he might easily access until they’re legally available to poorer fellow countrymen/women, even when his exhausting schedule takes a toll on his own HIV-positive health.
Docu distracts more than enlightens with some dramatized re-enactments of traumatic incidents from Achmat’s childhood. That aside, it’s unfussy and forceful on all levels.