New York AIDS Film Festival founder Suzanne Engo has redefined “HIV screening.” The obsessive 25-year-old filmmaker, who started out shooting starry promos for the likes of Alicia Keys, now directs the second annual fest, which will show 20 documentaries, shorts and features from September 17–23. “Activists should exploit film,” says Engo, a Cameroonian who studied cinema at New York University. “What better way to reach millions worldwide?”
At press time, Engo was combing through nearly 100 submissions, from Holland to South Africa, for an expected audience of 3,000. Last year, she mixed the 1985 AIDS telefilm An Early Frost with 2002’s Oscar winner The Hours and smaller works by openly positive directors. One winner, Travis, a 1997 film by late HIVer Richard Kotuk, follows a 6-year-old Bronx HIVer over three years.
“My mom was constantly involved with AIDS orphans, which made me aware at a young age,” Engo says. This year’s festival benefits Africa Action, which sends AIDS orphans to school, and FilmAid International, which exports big films and HIV info to refugee camps. “I’m sure that there are movies that film-savvy folks would prefer,” she adds, “but I’m more interested in people coming to be entertained and to learn something.” Now, that’s edutainment.
Visit newyorkaidsfilmfestival.org for more info.