A Tokyo medical school student shines a light on marginalized AIDS patients in Cambodia in his first documentary film now showing throughout the country.
"I wanted to show the reality of people who accept their fate as they strive to survive in a tough life," said director Kota Hada, 26, of his first documentary about people living with AIDS in Cambodia, titled, "Soredemo Unmei ni Yes to Iu" (We Still Say Yes to Destiny).
A sixth-year-student at Nippon Medical School, Hada was one of those run-of-the-mill college students who hang out in bars and play mahjong with friends every day, while feeling somewhat unsatisfied with life.
It was in the summer of his second year at university that the medial student came across a flyer about a project to build a school in Cambodia.
Together with some friends, who were also looking for something they could become passionate about, Hada raised 1.5 million yen in a year by holding charity events at night clubs. They opened a new elementary school in Cambodia in 2006.
The project's success brought him a sense of accomplishment, but he could not stop thinking about an AIDS patient whom he met at a hospital in Cambodia.
"The patient told me about the sorrow of being left behind in Cambodia's post-civil war recovery, but I've done nothing about it," he thought, and decided to produce the film about people living with AIDS in the country. Hada and his two friends raised about 700,000 yen in production costs by working part-time jobs. In April 2010, they started filming the documentary in Cambodia.
The work features marginalized AIDS patients in the country, such as a girl who earns treatment costs for her sick mother through prostitution, a group of AIDS patients who have been forced to live together in a village and children infected with HIV through mother-to-child transmission.
As he faced the grim reality of these people, Hada pondered if filming them would change anything.
Words from a female patient in her 20s supported Hada whenever he was uncertain about his decision to make the movie.
"Even my friends have abandoned me, but you put your arm around me. Thank you," the woman said to the young filmmaker.
Hada hopes more young people will get involved in activities to support others, saying, "Many people think only those with lofty ideals join overseas cooperation groups and help people with AIDS. But I want them to know that there are things that an ordinary student like me can do to help."
The documentary will be screened at 31 movie theaters nationwide through the end of March. Details can be found at the film's official website at http://suy.client.jp/index.html/top.html.