‘Ximei’ Review: An AIDS Activist Fights Medical Injustice in China

An estimated 300,000 residents of Henan Province in China contracted H.I.V. during a local epidemic that dates to the 1990s, according to the documentary “Ximei.” At that time, officials encouraged peasants to sell their blood for pittances. The virus spread through contaminated equipment and transfusions. Years later, AIDS patients in Henan are still shunned — scorned by their families, denied care by certain hospitals and made to fill out complicated forms for reimbursement (even though many are illiterate).

Liu Ximei, the activist at the movie’s center, contracted the virus as a girl. Now in her 30s, she ran a halfway house for fellow patients. She serves as a thorn in the side of government officials who would rather wish this public-health crisis away. In the tensest development she comes under the supervision of a local surveillance official, who we’re told at one point is alarmed to learn that she has absconded to Geneva to talk with the Joint United Nations Program on H.I.V./AIDS.

Ximei’s stealthy excursion to Switzerland is the sort of development a filmmaker usually captures only by hanging around. It is clear that Andy Cohen, who made the movie over seven years (Gaylen Ross is credited as co-director, and Ai Weiwei as executive producer), took the time to get to know his subject. We learn about the time when Ximei lived in a hospital with mainly dogs and cats to keep her company, and how she reunited with her biological mother. This isn’t a groundbreaking documentary, but it does pay its subjects the ultimate courtesy, treating them as officials have not: as fully rounded human beings.


Not rated. In Mandarin and regional Chinese dialect, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes.

Source: Read Full Article