I'VE SEEN FILMS - INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
October 10 to 19, 2012 - Milan - Italy
THE RUTGER HAUER STARFISH ASSOCIATION
How It All Started
Last Sunday I flew over from Provo to Grand Turk to do some research there. It was really really early. And I met the fine lady who does something for people and shares my concern about AIDS. We talked for a few hours. Met her three kids and was enjoying the oceanview from the balcony when we would fall quiet sometimes. I certainly find myself wiser after this. I have just about enough time to take a swift tour with the oldest taxi-driver of Grand Turk. And grab a quick lunch in an even older colonial-style hotel. Then it's back to the airport to get on the plane to Provo. A slightly intoxicated older woman - at the airport entrance - asks me if I have some change or cigarettes. She is in a poor shape. Her eyes are hollow, her skin is tight. She looks sixty years old but might just be forty. I know this look. A junky. I'm pretty sure she’s got AIDS. And most likely, since these islands are small, everybody knows. I tell her I'll be back. And walk over to a small snack-stand and ask the sales person what she has to sell from the little cooler in front of her. She says:
"Was she begging for money?"
And I reply,"Why would you ask?"
She just says, "Don't give her any, she'll just get drugs".
"What kind of drugs?"
"Oh, you know…".
I'm not sure I do. This most certainly is not about marijuana. It could be heroin. Even if it was available, who can afford such an expensive habit here?
I buy two drinks, some cigarettes, and walk back to the lady.
Give them to her and shake her hand.
After going inside, the check-in process turns out to be an event itself. Four trainee ladies take forever to get me a seat in their system.
As I still have a few minutes. I go back outside to finish my own drink.
There is a young couple right next to me. They shine brightly in their Sunday best. Probably straight out of church. Who knows. They stare across from me. They look slightly angry, a smile of contempt on their lips. They are looking at the junk lady who - in her plastic seat of misery - is now drinking and smoking…
I don't know any god, but I can think about a little prayer.
"Take care of this island, couple. And take care of the old junky lady. People, take care. There is a problem here".
Yes, that's how it all started, when Rutger was shooting a film in the Turks and Caicos Islands (British West Indies). These islands are a marvellous and sparsely populated string of pearls in the Caribbean Sea, 575 miles sout-east of Miami and 100 miles north of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The first image those islands give to a visitor is the that of a ‘lost paradise’. White sandy beaches, crystal clear waters of the most amazing colour and one of the longest coral reefs in the world. Sea life is rich and colorful. Marine turtles, migrating whales, many wild dolphins and a variety of rare birds populate these islands. And many starfish on the ocean floor.
But while Rutger was there he also discovered that many Turks and Caicos people were suffering from a vastly progressing disease - AIDS. By touring around during breaks between shooting, he started asking the islanders how many people they knew who had AIDS, and their reaction kept haunting him. It was always the same. People never answered that question. Instead, they would rise one hand and, in silence, show five fingers. No talk. A taboo topic. And he learned quickly that little help was available and that the spreading virus was likely to be out of control – also partially due to the constant, unstoppable stream of illegal immigrants from Haiti, which is known to have the highest HIV-infection rate in the Caribbean.
Rutger felt their pain and wanted to help. Could he possibly make a difference?
He soon faced the usual ‘bureaucratic problems’ which put clamps on more incisive action for the fight against this disease. First, the initial lack of specifically HIV-prevention aimed budgets. Second, a reluctance from a part of its society to acknowledge the subject because of a feared negative effect on the tourist business, while at the same time avoiding to openly face this serious threat. This challenge brought ‘Starfish’ into life.
Obviously, the reality of ‘AIDS’ has spread across the whole planet. From China, to Russia, Brazil, Africa. From Clinton and Mandela's efforts.
Since ‘day one’, ‘Starfish’ has been helping HIV/AIDS-stricken children and pregnant women all throughout the world: women and children are the future shoulders for societies. So much to do, so little time. Under such devastating circumstances.
While in the last years significant achievements have been made in pharmaceutical development relevant to HIV and AIDS, we are still greatly humbled by the sustained magnitude of this pandemic.
’Starfish’ is growing and spreading its wings. And Rutger travels constantly. So Rutger decided to widen the horizons and try to help, whenever and wherever possible. He set up the Rutger Hauer Starfish Association Headquarters in Asti (Italy).
’Starfish’ also keeps organizing awareness and charity events: some have been held in Stockholm (Sweden), Berlin (Germany), New York (with a very successful convention at the Madison Square Garden), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Castellarquato (Italy), Milton Keynes and Manchester (U.K.), etc.
’Starfish’ is calling upon filmmakers to join and use their craft to shed some light and spread the word on HIV/AIDS.
People with AIDS anywhere need help NOW. And a little help makes all the difference in the world to them…