The film, “Big House, Small House” is the latest offering from the OneLove Campaign, which works to reduce HIV prevalence and MCPs in ten southern African countries. The title refers to the colloquial expression “small house”, used to denote long-term, illicit sexual relationships in Zimbabwe. The film was produced by the Action Institute for Environment, Health and Development Communication (ACTION), a local NGO, in partnership with the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication, a South African NGO, and Zimbabwe’s National AIDS Council (NAC).
Television stations around southern Africa will air the movie as part of a series of 10 films – one from each of the campaign’s focus countries – highlighting the dangers of MCPs. MCPs have been identified by both UNAIDS and regional leaders as one of the key drivers – along with inconsistent condom use and low levels of male circumcision – of southern Africa’s HIV epidemic and Zimbabwe is no exception. Although the country has experienced a decline in HIV prevalence within the last decade, attributed to mortality and behaviour change, HIV prevalence remains high at about 15 per cent, according to UNAIDS.
Localising the story
Using regional research on MCPs conducted in 2007, ACTION worked with partners to develop the script, which focuses on Simba and his wife, Shingi, who seemingly have the perfect relationship after ten years of marriage – until Shingi finds that Simba has been having a long-term affair with a much younger woman. “The film is about how their story unravels, and about some of the cultural challenges [like those] that say it’s okay for men to have more than one ‘wife’,” said ACTION’s Caroline Majonga. “It’s about the discovery of betrayal, the complexities around sexual networks, how HIV comes into the picture, and how the couple deals with it.”
Jasen Mphepho, who plays Simba in the film, said men were sometimes pressured into taking up a “small house” by friends and family. “Men want to be seen to conform to what they think is the norm; they want to please their friends and relatives, but in the process they end up hurting the ones they love. I hope those who watch the film will be moved enough to protect the ones they love.” Although regional partner, Soul City, has stepped in to help train and sensitise local film-makers, according to Harriet Perlman, Soul City senior executive for the region, the movie reflects Zimbabwe’s unique message on MCPs.
Majonga said regional research had shown that people in southern Africa generally engaged in MCPs for the same reasons, like seeking sexual satisfaction, but Zimbabwe and other countries covered by the OneLove Campaign had now crafted their own messages on the topic and presented them in films like “Big House, Small House”. “A lot of the dissatisfaction [highlighted in research] was because people weren’t able to communicate their expectations to one another. We want to show people how communicating would improve the quality of relationships,” Majonga said. “Our main message in Zimbabwe has been that we want to encourage people [to know] that it’s possible to have a relationship that is both emotionally and physically satisfying with one person.”Post published in: News