Two years ago, documentary filmmaker Christine Choy knew so little about AIDS that after she invited someone wit HIV into her home for dinner, she raced to the phone to ask friends whether she needed to boil the plates he used. “I was ignorant about AIDS just like most Asian-Americans,” she says.
Now her sense of outrage about the disease and the U.S. government’s reaction to it is fully fueled because of her own experience battling to get a documentary film made about two HIV positive Asian-Americans.
Choy, 38, is a toothpick thin woman who talks nonstop while smoking one puff at a time, snuffing out each butt over and over and then relighting it. She looks waif-like, but, my, how appearances deceive. Choy’s strength lies in her resolve. At 14, she emigrated from China to the United States alone. Since then, Choy has successfully battled breast cancer and raised two children (one 19, and the other five months). She’s a professor of film at New York University and is now taking on the Asian-American community who, she says, would rather pretend AIDS doesn’t exist.
The film, tentatively titled Out of the Silence, was just released in New York City. But kick starting the project was unbelievably tough because Choy couldn’t find any HIV positive Asian-Americans who would talk to her.
“In Asia, if you have cancer, doctors don’t tell the patient, they tell the family. There are certain cultural elements, and the whole notion is to be silent. But silence can kill you.”