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A funeral director takes in bodies that social stigma leaves unclaimed

Over the past several decades, HIV has become a manageable condition, especially in more developed parts of the world. Still, in the United States, some 15,000 people with HIV/AIDS die each year. The disease disproportionately affects those living in the US South, where poverty, stigma and misinformation continue to fuel both cases and deaths. Directed by the US filmmakers Brian Bolster and Jonathan Napolitano, Departing Gesture shines a spotlight on this crisis via the work of Trey Sebrell, a funeral director in Ridgeland, Mississippi. In particular, the short video focuses on his work caring for the remains of those 10 to 12 people a year whose bodies go unclaimed by their families, often due to a stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and homosexuality. With artful framing and a gentle, humane touch, the filmmakers capture how Sebrell’s experiences at work and in his personal life enable him to provide a respectful burial for those who, even in death, face ignorance, shame and discrimination from their closest family.

18 January 2022

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