Radio New Zealand‘s contribution to the annual Global Perspectives series is Death Diminishes Me, by Gareth Watkins.
The theme this year is islands – including Alert Bay from CBC’s Outfront – and the islands in this superb documentary are the islands of isolation amidst other people. Gay men with HIV or AIDS in New Zealand.
This is how a documentary on HIV should be made – personal, painful, gut-wrenching, and with that engaging. Not fearfully presenting stories that drive people away. To be effective radio, a half-hour must keep people listening before it can move them. Death Diminishes Me does both of these, expertly.
The stories are “familiar” for a few reasons – they resonate with people in other parts of the world, and they speak to us like family or friends.
The production is gorgeous, with sounds emphasising settings, moods, and aspiration.
I lived in New Zealand for 10 months, but I hope and think that shouldn’t make this doc speak any the closer to my ear than it inherently does.
Only at the end did I hear that the producer was Gareth Watkins – he engineered one of the three short docs I made there (and it’s the best I’ve ever made, in no small part thanks to his skill), and he is a magician. I didn’t realise he had become a full producer, but my it’s a good thing.
Following on just a few weeks after the repeats of Thembi’s Story to mark her living and her death, HIV and AIDS have been brought into the world’s awareness again, in the personal way that only outstanding audio documentaries can.
Here’s hoping – no let’s make that assuming – Death Diminishes Me will win awards.