Doin' My Drugs

*****

Reviewed by: Stephanie Brown

Doin' My Drugs
"It is the fear of the stigma, the unknown and the misinformation about HIV that Doin’ My Drugs makes its predominant mission to correct - a society where people can be open about their status, and more importantly one where they no longer fear being teste"

Tyler Q Rosen’s Doin’ My Drugs is a heartfelt documentary that explores the social, political and religious problems that ignited the HIV epidemic within the continent of Africa. The film explores the familial stories of Thomas Muchimba as he tries to educate his native Zambia through music, truth and his personal journey with an HIV diagnosis.

The style of Doin’ My Drugs seems very unusual, almost at times developing like a home-movie or a travel-log of the open road with singsongs and reminisces of the past. But, as the context of the documentary develops, it makes complete sense why it has been filmed in this way. The light-hearted flow to the documentary often makes you forget the seriousness of the subject matter, and with the resurrection of social consciousness that had previously been censored by the government, there is a warm and collective community beyond the epidemic that strives to separate them. It is the fear of the stigma, the unknown and the misinformation about HIV that Doin’ My Drugs makes its predominant mission to correct - a society where people can be open about their status, and more importantly one where they no longer fear being tested.

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Much like Bratton’s Pier Kids, Rosen captures the lives of the streets and the people that amplify the complexities of modernity and tradition in culture. And similarly to Bratton, Rosen allows the lens to transcend the views of each pillar of the community, whether or not such views hold ignorance and fallacy. Muchimba does well to carry the script and intentions of the documentary, touching on the issues of government censorship, religious conflicts and social injustices with a balance of insight and empathy - and within the short running time, Doin’ My Drugs excels in spreading education and public information while diminishing the fear associated with the prognosis of HIV infection.

What makes this documentary memorable and touching is the way Muchimba uses his family history to digest and dissect the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, and through the musical aids he uses to share them. While documentaries that invest in an anecdotal, autobiographical discourse can often lend themselves to being more self-indulgent than illuminating, this is not the case for Rosen and Muchimba’s achievement, and the awareness raised through the final concert, puts stark emphasis on the change it hopes to bring all around Africa.

Doin’ My Drugs is a mesmerising documentary that manages to unpack an enormous amount of educative, enlightening, and empathetic flair from a reality that is presented as extremely nihilistic within affected regions of Africa. It is rare that a documentary can offer the sense of euphoria and hope that Rosen and Muchimba manage resoundingly from start to finish, and it instils a sense of promise to communities and viewers that their work is far from over.

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2020
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Thomas Muchimba returns to his native Zambia to share the knowledge he has learned from his familial experiences with HIV and AIDS.

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