Published on December 1st, 2012


A Valiant Struggle: A Film Review of “Thing With No Name”

In the documentary film  Thing With No Name  producers Sarah Friedland and Esy Casey present a touching portrait of two HIV/AIDS afflicted women as they live out their final months in the province of Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. The two women are named Danisile and NTombeleni. Danisile is only thirty-two years old while NTombeleni is only forty years old.

Although Danisile is younger, stronger, and has given birth to fewer children than has NTombeleni, she has a lower CD4 Count than does NTombeleni. Despite weakened immune systems, both Danisile’s and NTombeleni’s valiantly struggle to hold onto their lives. With astounding photography of the Kwazulu Natal region by Esy Casey, and incredible editing/direction by Sarah Friedland, the women’s stories are beautifully told as both struggle through The winter months of 2006.

As Danisile and NTombeleni survive throughout June, July, and August the mental, physical, and the intellectual affects of the disease upon them is contrasted with the health of their children and other family members. Often optimistic, yet frankly honest, this sensitive glimpse of Danisile and NTombeleni’s lives is intertwined with traditional South African customs which the poor people of South Africa depended upon for survival while Apartheid was in place. The South African people have not been able to totally forsake their traditional folk customs. Umemulo (female rights of passage), ancestor worship and traditional African burial are featured prominently throughout this documentary.

Thing With No Name may be dull and boring for those who are unwilling to read the subtitles. The english subtitles, however, convey staggering statistics which are astounding enough to compel one to watch the entire film.

For instance, did you know that of the world’s 39.5 million hiv/aids infected people, that 63% live in Sub-Saharan Africa? Also, did you know that in Kwazulu Natal, one in six people is HIV/AIDS infected. Because of this documentary’s ability to educate its viewers about HIV/AIDS, I would recommend this film as a vehicle with which to improve HIV/AIDS awareness amongst children as well as amongst adolescents and adults.

On a scale of from one to twelve roses, therefore, I give Thing With No Name eleven roses.


Thing With No Name Trailer from Sarah Friedland on Vimeo.

About the Author: Cleo E. Brown is the former Dean of Students and of Academic Affairs in The Learning Institute’s GED Program in Manhattan, New York. She has a Master’s Degree in contemporary African-American History from The University of California at Davis, and has worked toward a Doctorate in education at The University of San Francisco.

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