A Life Beyond Stigma
25 minutes, Color
"This disease takes away the beauty of your face. It eats up your hands and feet and makes us ugly. Other diseases eat up your insides, but they leave you looking beautiful outside."
"People in the villages think it is caused by Naga spirits. So they sacrifice chickens and goats and do prayer pujas. That's what they did for me too. My parents didn't know."
Since antiquity, leprosy has struck fear into human beings. Seen as contagious, mutilating and incurable, leprosy continues to alienate those who contract it from their families and communities.
Leper provides a rare and intimate glimpse into a contemporary society of lepers in a remote village in Nepal. Villagers speak openly and emotionally about their relationship to their sickness, to the "healthy" outside community outside the village boundaries, and the myriad stigmas and misunderstandings which surround a disease that has marked their bodies and their lives.
The villagers speak eloquently of how, after much struggle and hardship, they build new lives for themselves, recreating family and community in the context of this disease. Their poignant and revealing stories offer heartfelt reflections on societal fears and aversions to sickness, bodily differences, and death.
"Made with remarkable sensitivity, beauty and compassion, Leper is a tremendous resource for teaching about the stigma of disease.
We have much to learn from the people of this small village in Nepal that can be applied to a wide spectrum of illness.
If the empathy gained in watching this film could be used in treating patients in our country, health care would be greatly improved."
— Maren Grainger-Monsen
MD, Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University School of Medicine