Documentary Review: One woman’s AIDS activism rattles the People’s Republic in “Ximei”
If the Chinese government isn’t careful, the world will give Liu Ximei the Nobel Peace Prize.
And if there’s one thing the Hollywood and NBA-coddling one-party dictatorship hates, it’s having another version of its greed, incompetence, repression and aggression exposed to the world.
“Ximei” is about a genuine social justice warrior fighting the lonely fight on behalf of AIDS patients in China. Liu Ximei is one of them, and the documentary “Ximei” recounts how she was infected, how society and her own family treated her and how the sunglasses-wearing thugs of the “People’s Republic” keep coming down on her for speaking out, garnering attention and demanding justice.
She and millions of Chinese like her are victims of China’s “Black Blood Economy.” A peasant in a nation that rarely acknowledges it has them, she was gruesomely injured doing farm work — at age 10 — in Xinoa County, Henan Provice.
But “child labor” wasn’t the worst of it. While in the hospital, she can given a transfusion of hospital-provided and sold HIV positive blood. For years, China callously and carelessly exploited peasants, getting them to sell their blood. They didn’t bother to test it until much later. They didn’t bother to keep the blood gathering and dispensing gear disinfected. AIDS exploded in Henan Province.
Ximei contracted it, and in a culture built on family, she became a prime example of the shunning families did to members who contracted the disease. She shows us the hospital where she grew up, living for eight years with no family or friends, with only reluctant staff and animals that roamed the courtyard for company.
In “Ximei,” we follow her as she visits other victims, old farm women, younger women like herself.
“Have some pig feet soup,” they insist.
She leads the film crew into the chaos of “clinic day” in town, where medicine that these patients need to survive is delivered and sold. Everybody asks her advice, even as they’re getting the same drugs she needs, even as they’re facing the same impossible bills for a deadly disease official policy and cutthroat shortcuts gave them.
There’s supposed to be government reimbursement (the LEAST they could do) for this massive, shadowy government screw-up. But the bureaucracy demands that patients prove it was their fault, and bury illiterate peasants under paperwork that would qualify them.
Ximei and her friends talk about this, as she visits them in their homes or in the house in town where she provides food and shelter to those coming into town for treatment.
With a mop-top (possibly a wig) and pronounced limp due to her long-ago accident, Ximei is a local celebrity.
“Everybody knows the AIDS girl who can’t walk properly,” she says (in Chinese, with English subtitles). And that’s the other burden she must carry. Hand-weaving plastic AIDS ribbons is one thing. Being summoned to international conferences for consultation, and followed by a film crew is an altogether different thing.
We see her stroll past a Chinese-hosted health and justice event past government sanctioned posters (in English) decrying the state of women’s rights and ecological rights — in India.
The cops and hired thugs who rough her up and take her phone? Just the Chinese making sure the focus is on India’s scandals, and not those of the People’s Paradise.
Ximei makes a quietly compelling heroine, and the filmmakers — who can be seen questioning the men in sunglasses following her around — do her their greatest service in just letting her tell her story, just letting their camera capture the indifference, fear and fury that has been officialdom’s knee-jerk reaction to her cause.
But I don’t know. She’s just one woman and it’s just one documentary, even if it a pretty good one with limited prospects for release. Ximei still looks like one of those solitary heroes who doggedly lead by example until others help her move mountains.
And those others just might live in Sweden.