DER Documentary

Today the Hawk Takes One Chick


by Jane Gillooly
color, 72 min, 2008
English and Siswati
with English subtitles


Amidst the highest prevalence of HIV in the world and the lowest life expectancy, three grandmothers in Swaziland, a small, landlocked country in southern Africa between South Africa and Mozambique, cope in this critical moment in time. The generation between the grandmothers and their grandchildren has been severely effected by HIV. Today the Hawk Takes One Chick moves delicately between the lives of the grandmothers, whose experiences highlight a rural community at the threshold of simultaneous collapse and reinvention.

Through the poignant perspective of these women, the film creates a portrait of a community by layering discrete moments in time. Presented without overt narrative structure or narration, the film's drama emerges from the patient accumulation of steady details that, in sum, tell a greater story of family in a world dictated by AIDS.

The events in the film occur in a rural area within a 15-mile radius. In Swaziland, nearly 40% of people are HIV positive and life expectancy has dropped to 32-years. The lives of the three grandmothers have been consumed by addressing the needs of their community while at the same time retaining the threads of the fraying traditional life.

Through verité footage and recordings of intimate conversations, the gentle beauty of the rural Swaziland landscape and way of life are in stark contrast with the urgency of the grandmothers' everyday lives: families living off World Food Program rations, a missing generation of productive young adults, children surviving without parents. These crises all combine and overwhelm what should be the grandmothers' time to retire, relax and be taken care of by adult children. What is life when sickness and death are an everyday experience? For these grandmothers, there is no choice but to steadfastly persevere and refuse to abandon their children. As more and more insight into the women's lives is revealed, we are forced to ponder the question asked by granny Albertina: "What will happen when all the grannies are dead?"

"Beautiful and wonderfully crafted, its importance pours out." — Ryan Haidarian, Head of Development & Production, National Film and Video Foundation - South Africa
"This is a poignant and beautifully perceptive portrait of three extraordinarily dynamic grandmothers (gogos), resolutely holding their families together in the wake of the Swaziland Aids crisis. Director Jane Gillooly's respect for her film's subjects, her sensitive camera and seamless editing create a delicate balance between the culturally specific aspects of the gogos' lives and the universality of their tragedies." — Ilisa Barbash, Associate Curator, Visual Anthropology, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Virginia Film Festival (work in progress screening), November 2007
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston premiere, February 2008
Nominee, Fledgling Fund Socially Conscious Documentary Award IFP 2007
Full Frame Documentary Film Fesival, April 2008
Sarasota Film Festival, April 2008
Cornell Cinema, Ithaca, NY, April 2008
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2008
MIT Women's Studies Department and Women in Film and Video May 2008
Kansas International Film Festival, September 2008
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, September 2008
Mexico City International Contemporary Film Festival, 2008
Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival, Ithaca, NY, 2008
Maryland Film Festival, Baltimore, MD, 2008
Voices From the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore, India, 2008
Festival of Visual Culture, Finland, 2008
Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, MA, 2008
Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival, Canada, 2008
New Hampshire Film Festival, 2008
Margaret Mead Film Festival, New York, 2008
Newburyport Film Festival, MA, 2008
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