At the beginning of IT'S MY LIFE we learn that there are 4.7 million South Africans currently infected with the HIV virus and, despite the fact that anti-retroviral medicines allow people with HIV to lead almost normal lives, the South African government has failed to provide them in public hospitals and clinics. More damning, the President of the country, Thabo Mbeki, has consistently questioned the link between HIV and AIDS.
It is in this context that Zackie Achmat, the HIV positive acting chairperson of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), has decided not to take anti-retroviral medicines until they are made available by the government in public hospitals and clinics.
Filmed over five months, IT'S MY LIFE follows Zackie as he leads a court battle against the multi-national drug companies to allow the introduction of cheaper, generic drugs, and takes on the South African government for it's confusing policies around HIV/AIDS.
As a leader in the campaign for affordable treatment, Zackie's provocative position is not one all his friends and colleagues support. When Zackie gets ill, everyone wants to know why he refuses to take the medicines that would let him lead a healthier life.
IT'S MY LIFE interweaves personal and public images to provide an intimate look at an internationally profiled defiance campaign and the complexities of its leading figure.
"IT'S MY LIFE provides a disturbing window into the suffering of the HIV-infected South African population as it chronicles the desperate actions of Achmat to change the government's position concerning its health care obligations to its citizens. It delivers a potent message about the roles of government and pharmaceutical companies in the conflict over affordable AIDS drugs."—Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics
Red Ribbon for the Special Jury Citation, 2001 Amsterdam Int'l Documentary Festival
Special Award for Human Rights Awareness, 2002 One World International Human Rights Film Festival (Prague)
2002 and 2003 African Studies Association Film Festival
2001 Paris Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
2002 Festival Cinema Africano (Milan)
2002 DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival
2002 San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
2002 OutFest, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
"Inspiring... The worldwide impact of AIDS, universal health-care issues, and Achmat's heroic stance broaden the appeal of this memorable video."—Booklist
"This powerful, authentic story of a person, who is not unfamiliar to various types of suffering himself, carries a potent message of the power of the powerless, of the courage of personal sacrifice for the sake of the other humans whose rights are threatened. The film exceptionally showcases the defense of human rights and the necessity of global human responsibility to the world as a whole."—Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, 2002 One World International Human Rights Film Festival (Prague)
"A powerfully stirring portrait!"—Daily Mail & Guardian
"A dramatic and ultimately encouraging story of people power. Achmat is the charismatic, immensely clever, and arguably fanatical personality behind it. The film humanizes the pain of HIV as well as draws dramatic attention to Achmat's remarkable energy and moral courage.—Marc Epprecht, Dept. of History/Development Studies, Queens University, Kingston, Canada for H-SAfrica Media Reviews
"An interesting introduction to a pointed political issue in South Africa and the World, and underscores the grass roots activism that continues to be necessary for proper advocacy of people with HIV/AIDS."—AIDS Book Review Journal