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Their Brothers' Keepers
Orphaned by AIDS

A deeply moving film about Africa's AIDS orphans left to fend for themselves.

A printer-friendly version of this page 55 minutes
Closed Captioned

Directed by Catherine Mullins
Produced by Green Lion Productions
in association with Télé-Québec, HDNet, Knowledge Network, Canadian Learning Television, SCN; with the financial participation of the Government of Canada through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), SODEC, the Québec Film and Television Tax Credit, Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, Rogers Documentary Fund, and the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit; with development assistance from Telefilm Canada and Global TV
Photographed by Alberto Feio

"A human being with a beating heart cannot help but be moved." Prof. Brook K. Baker, Health Global Access Project
Theirs is no normal childhood. They are the millions of children whose parents have died of AIDS. They have no time to grieve. They are the parents.

Filmed over a 7-month period, Their Brothers' Keepers goes inside Chazanga Compound, a shantytown in Lusaka, Zambia and follows the day-to-day struggles of two child-headed families. We see how Benny, Dorris and Paul cope with a lack of food, water, health care, and schooling. They scramble for piecework to buy mealie-meal for their younger siblings. Local aid and community workers give support but lack the necessary resources. Foreign aid is too thin to trickle down.

The film alternates between the broader view and the personal detail, between tragedy and hope. Stunning photography and an exquisite musical score contrast with the surreal lives of these heroic kids.

Throughout the film, excerpts from speeches by Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is their passionate advocate. "This pandemic has done something dreadful to our instinct for compassion. What is wrong with the world? One might also ask, what will happen if a generation of Africans grows up without parents, social structures or the basic necessities of life?"

Their Brothers' Keepers is about children determined to survive. They are the future of Zambia, and Africa. How much longer can we stand by?

Grade Level: Grades 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 2005     Copyright Date: 2005
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-241-6     VHS ISBN: 1-59458-240-8

"Their Brothers' Keepers powerfully conveys the sense of hope grounded in the human spirit to survive. It is highly recommended for college and public library collections."
Calvin O. Masilela, Associate Professor and Director, Department of Geography and Regional Planning, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

"Their Brothers' Keepers, accurately captures and succinctly portrays the challenges orphaned adolescents encounter, especially regarding psychosocial and medical issues, as well as, assuming economic and household responsibilities. Most importantly, the video also demonstrates the barriers health professionals and service organizations encounter when navigating locally available resources to seek social support and medical care for orphaned adolescents... This video is also unique in that it incorporates the decisions of orphaned adolescents, their families, peer groups, communities, donor organizations, and medical providers in formulating a comprehensively-focused social and medical support system for orphaned adolescents... Their Brothers' Keepers, is a very important educational and/or training resource for high risk seeking adolescents, social workers, donor organizations, health professionals and researchers working with and/or caring for orphaned adolescents in developing countries."
Stephen B. Kennedy, MD, MPH, Research Scientist, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE)

"This film breaks new ground by offering multiple perspectives on the AIDS pandemic in Africa: the general overview of the situation is articulated by Mr. Stephen Lewis who speaks passionately of the problems confronted by 'Africans,' African women in particular, when faced with the spectre of the disease... For those who fear that the nations of the African continent will be inhabited in the future by generations of people who grew up without parents, and thus without adequate knowledge of their culture, this film is both reassuring and disturbing... the lives of the children in those nations like Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa where infection rates are the highest, deserve the attention and resources of those more fortunate. This informative and moving film will help to focus that attention where it is needed most."
Dr. Barbara G. Hoffman, Department of Anthropology, Cleveland State University

"Their Brothers' Keepers is an intimate account of children orphaned by AIDS and the efforts of two teenagers striving to keep their sibling groups intact in the face of persistent poverty and donor neglect... A human being with a beating heart cannot help but be moved at the story of two orphan groups, two among millions. As Stephen Lewis asks - when will rich countries respond?"
Professor Brook K. Baker, Health Global Access Project Northeastern University School of Law Boston, MA, USA

"[Their Brothers' Keepers] does a masterful job of touching into both the raw realities of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the hopeful initiatives individuals, organizations, and the Zambian government have taken to reduce human suffering. Portraits of 'sibling families' document the human and societal toll of the disease in a way that is at once respectful and intimate. A brilliant, sensitive, deeply moving film.
My 10- and 12-year olds were hesitant to watch a 'film on AIDS.' But the family portraits drew them in and accomplished the awesome feat of helping them to understand and relate to both a people and place that were unfamiliar to them. As a result, my kids really 'got it,'... It's a masterfully-done film, and deserves the widest possible audience."
Susan L. Erikson, Ph.D., Director, Global Health Affairs, Graduate School of International Studies University of Denver

"This film can serve as an affecting, important putting a personal face on this massive devastating situation. Students are given a framework upon which to build a greater understanding of the global implications of the African AIDS pandemic."
Meghann R. Matwichuk, University of Delaware for School Library Journal

"Serving as an impassioned plea for Western altruism and medical egalitarianism regarding AIDS-ravaged Africa, this moving documentary personalizes the crisis... Recommended."
Video Librarian

"[Their Brothers' Keepers] asks if the developing world, which can always find the resources to wage wars that cost billions of dollars, has the will and the compassion to defeat [AIDS]. This film is engrossing and very well paced. Its picture and sound qualities are good. It is provided with an effective narration in English. Highly recommended."
Thomas J. Beck, University of Colorado at Denver for Educational Media Reviews Online

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Awards and Festivals
Best Social/Political Documentary and Best Photography, Yorkton Film & Video Festival
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
American Public Health Association Film Festival
Vancouver International Film Festival
United Nations Association Film Festival, Stanford
Society for Visual Anthropology Film & Video Festival
Calgary International Film Festival
Ecofilms, Rhodes
St. John's International Women's Film Festival
New York AIDS Film Festival
Our Island, Our World Film Festival, Salt Spring Island, Canada
Western Psychological Association Film Festival
Human Rights Watch International and Women for Change Film Festival, Lusaka, Zambia
Cinema Mostra AIDS Festival

African Studies
Child Labor
Developing World
International Studies

Related Titles

The Value of Life
United Nations' HIV/AIDS envoy, Stephen Lewis, makes an impassioned plea for world public opinion to focus on the AIDS crisis in Africa.

The Last Child
Tells the behind-the-scenes story of the global campaign to eradicate polio.

The Cost of Living
AIDS drugs unaffordable in developing countries.

Educating Lucia
The odds are against girls getting an education in Zimbabwe and throughout much of Africa.

Brazil has developed generic antiretroviral drugs to care for those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

Paying the Price
Pharmaceutical companies block generic drugs, threatening the lives of millions of Africans with AIDS.

Patents and Patients
India battles HIV/AIDS using generic drugs.

Sowing Seeds of Hunger
The AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has crippled the agricultural community while forcing children to undertake the responsibilities of farming.

Going Home
10-year old soldier escapes rebel forces in Sierra Leone.

Crisis Control
Ukraine's emerging HIV epidemic is contrasted with Africa's longstanding HIV/AIDS catastrophe.

The Hospice
Workers at the Mother of Mercy hospice in Zambia provide palliative care for those afflicted with AIDS.

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