The Tokyo International Film Festival is set to start next weekend, meaning my favorite time of year in Tokyo is just around the corner. Advanced press screenings started today, and I saw my first film of the festival this morning
Accession is a difficult to watch film on a difficult topic—AIDS in South Africa and the fear and superstition that surrounds it. The film starts with the sun rising over a dusty township as John (Pethro Themba Mbole) has his first sex of the day in an open field before walking away on his own. The camera stays tight on his face throughout the film. We do not see the other men he speaks to about borrowing money or the odd job repairing DVD players. It is an interesting way to compose a film, and jumpy cutting of John hustling his friends followed by long, tight shots of him walking give the audience of feel of what his day is like. The women he chats to and has casual sex with appear in the corner of the frame, out of focus and anonymous.
When one of the women informs him that she is HIV-positive, his monotonous life takes a dark turn. He goes to a clinic, but only watches the line of people waiting to get tested from across the street. He visits a folk doctor to get some herbs and listens to his friend say that having sex with a virgin cures infections. This is when the unthinkable become the inevitable. The audience does not know or like John enough to sympathize with him, but he drags us into his desperation. What he does is something we have read about in newspapers, but it is very uncomfortable to watch on a movie screen.