An engrossing portrait of an uncompromising individual, Brian Tilley's docu "It's My Life" spends a few 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.

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.

It's My Life

South Africa

Production

A First Run/Icarus Films release of a Dominant 7, Big World Cinema, Steps for the Future and Arte France presentation of a Big World Cinema production. Produced by Steven Markowitz, Phillip Brooks. Directed by Brian Tilley.

Crew

Camera (color, Beta SP), Giulio Biccari; editor, Ronelle Loots; music, Philip Miller; sound, Biccari, Tilley. Reviewed at San Francisco Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, July 17, 2002. Running time: 72 MIN.
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