State of Denial

Director: Elaine Epstein

Institute History

  • 2003 Sundance Film Festival


Marrying trenchant political criticism to a bold sense of humanity and responsibility, State of Denial engages head-on the unspeakable response to the AIDS crisis in South Africa, its hundreds of thousands of victims, and the virtual abdication of responsibility by the country's leadership. With South Africans dying in massive numbers, President Thabo Mbeki inconceivably questions whether the HIV virus causes AIDS. An estimated 4.7 million South Africans are currently living with HIV, and unless official policy dramatically shifts (for example, making antiretroviral drugs affordable and available), the country faces up to seven million AIDS-related deaths by the year 2010.

Wading into this sociopolitical morass, Elaine Epstein brings her camera, a sense of the cognitive dissonance between official posturing and actual suffering, and her sensitivity and respect for the remarkable spirit of a people determined to live while maintaining dignity and hope. While this epidemic inflicts death and despair in the cities, townships, and rural communities, tremendous inspiration can be found in these places—not just in the courage and defiance of activists, journalists, healthcare providers, and support groups who refuse to close their eyes to the crisis but in the actions of selfless, ordinary citizens who with grace and even humor speak out against official policies, in some cases disclosing their HIV-positive condition despite possible stigma and shame. State of Denial is a scathing attack on a president turning his back on a crisis of staggering proportions and a tribute to people fighting for their lives and the future of their country.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details

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