Ruby Yang’s “The Blood of Yingzhou District” won this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, and it deserves to be seen. The film exposes the discrimination experienced by pediatric AIDS victims and the healthy children of adults who died from AIDS in a Chinese village.
It appears that AIDS is far more rampant in China than previously reported. The cases in this film resulted from impoverished villagers who sold their blood for a meager sum – illogically, the blood was re-injected back into their veins, which is how the disease took root.
The villagers are apparently 20 years behind the times when it comes to understanding AIDS. Any child who either has the disease or whose parent passed away is treated like a pariah by the schools, other children, and even their own families. One man whose nephew is HIV-positive and whose parents died from AIDS plans to send the child into the foster care system because he would otherwise be unable to find a wife (apparently no woman will set foot in the house with an HIV-positive child around).
At a time when the Western media is playing up China’s growing economic power, the film is startling to show the financial and intellectual poverty on display beyond Beijing and Shanghai. With their crude and crass understanding of child welfare and basic human kindness, the Chinese villagers in this film come across as the biggest idiots in today’s non-fiction cinema.