HIV/AIDS has been a taboo subject in China since the country’s first reported case in 1985. For years, public health departments reported that only homosexuals or promiscuous citizens were at risk—a policy that aggravated the spread of HIV/AIDS among heterosexuals and propagated the idea that only society’s outcasts could contract the disease.
Tainted blood transfusions in the late 1980s infected an estimated 22,000 Chinese, the U.N. reports, causing the government to take notice. But it wasn’t until 2003 that Wen Jiabao became China’s first premier to shake hands with an HIV-positive victim.
Director Gu Changwei (“Farewell My Concubine”), winner of the Berlinale’s 2005 Silver Bear, resolved to cast real HIV/AIDS victims in all extra and supporting roles for his 2011 film, “Tale of Magic.” Gu secured government funding to commission filmmaker Zhao Liang to document this process and expose the ongoing discrimination such victims face.