POV: How do you think your work as a grassroots organizer and social worker influenced the way that you filmed “State of Denial”? Did you already have a relationship with your subjects before filming?
Elaine Epstein: Before I started filming I was clear that I didn’t want to make a film that was going to be all “doom and gloom,” focusing on hopeless situations where nothing can be done. I wanted to show that there was excellent work being done at the grassroots level in South Africa around HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, support and care. When I traveled back to South Africa, I contacted groups that I had worked with in the past and that, I thought, were doing effective community based work. Through these groups I found the subjects that appear in the film. I did spend a lot of time with each subject before I started filming — in fact I didn’t take a camera with me on the first trip back. There is a lot of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in South Africa so I spent a lot of time with each subject discussing what it would mean for them to disclose their HIV status in a film, and how they felt about it and what they did or didn’t feel comfortable with. These discussions continue today as the film goes out to be broadcast.