Film Review: How to Tell a Secret sets aside the stigma around HIV

'...a powerful account of the liberating experience of sloughing off the stigma and refusing to be ‘silenced by society’ any longer...'
Film Review: How to Tell a Secret sets aside the stigma around HIV

How to Keep a Secret: an important public-information film

  • How to Tell a Secret 
  • ★★★★★

'You’re only as sick as your secrets,’ announces Shaun Dunne as How To Tell a Secret (15A) opens. The film is an examination of the social stigma that Irish society associates with the condition. 

Adapted from Dunne’s play Rapids, which was first staged in 2017, the film is an reflexive experience that evolves as the process of adapting a film from a play, with the ‘characters’ — most of whom play themselves — rehearsing the roles they will eventually play once the cameras start to roll. 

It’s a brilliant conceit, and one that allows for testimonies that might otherwise go unheard: for cultural reasons, or family reasons, some of those with HIV are still unwilling to go public with their stories. Directors Anna Rodgers and Shaun Dunne employ straight-to-camera ‘rehearsal’ speeches, dramatic recreations of ‘HIV disclosure’ and archive footage of The Diceman, aka Thom McGinty, to create a powerful account of the liberating experience of sloughing off the stigma and refusing to be ‘silenced by society’ any longer. 

The result is a film that works on a number of levels: a vitally important public information film that will likely shock the viewer (HIV numbers in Ireland are today higher than they have ever been), it’s also one of the smartest, most ingeniously crafted Irish films in years. (cinema release)

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