In the story of David and Goliath, the meek shepherd David defeated a giant with a simple slingshot and a few small rocks. The myth today is that the sling is Twitter and the stones are a few well-crafted tweets. No, David had to step onto the frontlines with what little armor he had and stand toe-to-toe with the giant. That’s true heroism.
In a documentary by Tyler Q. Rosen, Doin’ My Drugs follows a modern-day David, in this case, musician and activist Thomas Muchimba Buttenschon, and his Goliath is HIV/AIDS in the country of Zambia. In Zambia, fourteen percent of its 17-million citizens are HIV-Positive or have AIDS. This is accounts for only the reported cases of HIV.
Fear rules over Zambia forcing its victims into silence. If discovered as HIV-Positive, you are shunned by your neighbors and family. If you speak up about the disease or “come out” with your sexual orientation, you are disgraced, denounced, and censored. Years of silence has turned the AIDS crisis in Africa into a full-blown epidemic; leading Thomas to return to his home country, speak out, and give voice to those who have been fighting the good fight before him.
“Years of silence has turned the AIDS crisis in Africa into a full-blown epidemic; leading Thomas to return to his home country, speak out, and give voice…”
Along with Thomas, director Rosen speaks to many musicians including Danny Kaya, who wrote the song Yakamuyo, concerning homosexuality. The song was at first banned by the government, but as the HIV epidemic grew, the song was released, and the effects of its message resulted in the distribution of condoms in male prisons.
The most amazing story is of Thomas himself. When he was a toddler, his parents thought he had a severe case of malaria. His sickness led the family to the country of Denmark, and after close examination, young Thomas was diagnosed as HIV-Positive, and his parents had AIDS. Both parents would die in Denmark by the time Thomas turned eight-years-old, leaving him to be raised by foster parents until adulthood.
Today, Thomas is married with a child. Thanks to his medicine, Thomas does not have AIDS, and his wife and child are not HIV-Positive. Not only that, no child in Denmark today is born HIV-Positive either; a reality that could be true for Zambia…heck all of Africa for that matter.
The most emotional part of the documentary was a news story featuring Thomas’ parents. The story was about parents with AIDS. His father talks about life with AIDS and the bleak future for Thomas, it’s heartbreaking knowing he would pass away soon after.
“…music is a way of expression and not a race to fame and fortune.”
The most profound moment is Thomas explaining to an unknowing local that medicine can prevent the spread of HIV to his wife and children. He also adds the fact that the Zambian government has made this medication available for free to everyone. This film easily spotlights the importance of education and captures the realization that HIV is no longer a death sentence and there is hope.
This is also a music documentary with street-performances from Thomas and other AIDS activists/performers. Overall, the music is good, but won’t make Top-40 radio anytime soon. But these artists know that music is a way of expression and not a race to fame and fortune. One interview from the doc states, “If you want to hide something from someone, put it in a book. If you want to give it, put it in a song.”
Doin’ My Drugs is an informative and inspiring documentary about a man and his guitar trying the change an entire nation, one person at a time. All without the aid of a social media account. We live in a nation that believes the solutions to all our problems come from the people we elect into office. And so we sit back and troll the internet. Changing the world means we put down our cell phones, get our hands dirty, and actually do something meaningful.
Doin’ My Drugs (2019) Directed by Tyler Q. Rosen. Featuring Thomas Muchimba Buttenschon, Danny Kaya, John Chiti.
7.5 out of 10 stars