Acceptance: Living with HIV/AIDS: An Interview with Video Producer Paul Van der Veur

Article excerpt

"HIV is in our blood, it's not in the mind."

"We want people living with the virus to go to the schools to teach the kids."

"You have to have a healthy life, please."

The voices of three Namibian women, Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS

Paul van der Veur is the executive producer/editor of the four part video series, Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS (http://web.cortland.edu/acceptance/). As a former Peace Corp volunteer, Paul is involved in many facets of international programs. Paul recently returned from a 5-month trip to Namibia where he interviewed women living with HIV/AIDS in a four-part series production, Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS. The series was produced with funding by a Fulbright scholarship, a grant from the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for the U.S. Department of State, Windhoek, Namibia in 2006, and a $250,000 grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb for AIDS education and prevention for Swaziland. Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS was screened during the 2006 AIDS Day program in the Namibian capital of Windhoek and entered in the 2007 Wild Cinema Film Festival in the same city. The series was screened nationally by the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation. Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS is also being distributed on DVD.

Paul van der Veur currently serves as chair of the Communication Studies Department and as Program Coordinator of the Bachelor of Arts program in New Communication Media at Cortland College, which is part of the State University of New York. After arriving at Cortland in 2002, he has been the recipient of over $50,000 in grants to develop the new media program.

In this interview, conducted in Ithaca, New York, September 2007, I spoke with Paul, focusing on the off-screen or behind the scene story of the video series, Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS.

Jean Young (JY): Paul, please tell us about your background in broadcast journalism and video production. What attracted you to the documentary form? What unique perspective does your combination of production background, academic background and/or social activist background give you in terms of research and representation of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa?

Paul van der Veur (PV): My foundational background is in fine arts. I have a Bachelor of Arts from MTS Vakschool Schoonoven in the Netherlands and a Master of Fine Arts from Ohio University. I also have a PhD from Ohio University in the United States. I have tried to incorporate aspects from these experiences into my work since that time. I have been shooting, editing and producing video for about 15 years. I worked in the communication for development arena for several years in Lesotho before my doctoral research in Southern Africa.

My documentary work began in Montana (U.S.) where I created a variety of multimedia productions centered on environmental issues of the region. During that time, I produced works for both the Montana Department of Justice and the Arco Corporation among others. My work is strongly influenced by my background in the fine arts, my life in Africa, and my involvement in development, human rights and environmentalism. I think my research into the colonial legacies of mass communication on the continent has also strongly influenced my work.

JY: How do you, as a scholar and as a broadcast journalist, utilize the digital medium for maximum benefit? What are some of the advantages of this type of reporting over print journalism or traditional academic writing?

PV: Video allows a higher level of interaction with the subject matter than either print journalism or traditional academic writing. Documentary videos are potentially more participatory. They allow individuals to retain more authority over their own stories than either of the above forms.

JY: Please talk about the instances that fueled your interest and subsequently lead you to produce the video series, Acceptance: Living With HIV/AIDS. …