It tells the story of two college students from Texas in the US who came to Swaziland to tell Swazis to save themselves and their nation from HIV AIDS by not having sex.
The documentary called Dear Francis was shown for the first on the Showtime cable television network in the United States this month. It will be repeated several times during 2007 and 2008.
Dear Francis was made in 2005 by an independent production company, Chronicle Project
According to the producer’s own publicity, the sixty-minute film was shot on location in Swaziland just a few months after the United Nations declared the kingdom to be the world’s most HIV infected country in the world.
The publicity says, ‘It follows the story of Lance and Kelly, two Texas college students who volunteer for an unconventional HIV prevention campaign to Swaziland high schools. The campaign centers around the controversial message of sexual abstinence.
‘The two collegians leave for Africa with high hopes and innocent naiveté. As they begin to interact with the Swazi teenagers, they quickly discover that the problems surrounding the pandemic are much more complex than they had ever expected.
‘One exercise of the curriculum, anonymous letter-writing to a fictional “Francis,” proves to be a most disturbing window into a darker, more complex undercurrent of the AIDS pandemic. Distressing stories of sexual abuse, rape, and incest flood Lance and Kelly’s sensibilities. Anger and frustration well up as they pour over tales of students exchanging sex for food with exploitative neighbors or even their own teachers. The devastation is further amplified as we hear the horrific stories of a group of orphans rescued by a local foster home. The contrast of life experiences between the Americans and their Swazi counterparts could not be more different, leaving Lance and Kelly at a loss for how to respond to such troubling realities.’
Before being picked up by Showtime the film won awards at the Heartland Film Festival and the New York Aids Film Festival
One film critic Felix Vasquez Jr. wrote,
‘Dear Francis is not only just a documentary about helping or trying to help these people [Swazis], but exploring how these two college students, Lance and Kelly, break free from their own thought processes and really do gain a different perspective on life, and tragedy.
‘It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully written, and sublime from start to finish, and it managed in some cases to open my eyes. It really shows how two people with goals and ideals can help others a great deal through small tasks. It’s trite, but hell, it’s true.’