The global AIDS crisis has been largely ignored in China, where official neglect and lack of information about the disease are as crucial to its control as individual behavior. <i>To Live Is Better Than to Die</i> depicts a year in the life of an HIV-infected family in central China's Henan Province in as brutally frank and emotionally naked a way as one can imagine onscreen.
Directed by Weijun Chen, this brave, stark documentary portrays a family whose members are in various stages of illness or health: The mother has full-blown AIDS, the father is HIV positive, two children are also infected with HIV, and the eldest child is virus-free. How they cope, how they view themselves and their disease, how they interact as a family and confront inevitable death are all part of daily life but can barely be called existence.
Not an easy film, nor one fated to meet with approval from Beijing, <i>To Live Is Better Than to Die</i> takes a clinical, unemotional approach to a wrenching situation and ennobles its characters precisely because it keeps its distance. No happy endings are possible in such a film, except perhaps for the sense, implied by the title, that life is better lived than not.
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