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“Doin’ My Drugs” documents the extraordinary life and personal transformation of musician Thomas Muchimba Buttenschøn.

Born in Zambia in 1985 to a Zambian mother and Danish father, Buttenschøn is diagnosed HIV positive as an infant. His parents subsequently learn they are infected. The family moves to Denmark for treatment, but by the time Thomas is nine he’s lost both his mother and father. After becoming deathly ill himself at 13, Buttenschøn begins antiretroviral (ARV) treatment and regains his health. He throws himself into music, becomes a Danish pop star, marries and fathers two sons.

While he is able to live a full and healthy life with the virus, he recognizes that his native Zambia remains trapped in a senseless HIV/AIDS epidemic. The government offers ARV treatment for free, but a staggering 13% of Zambians are infected with HIV and remain untreated. Thomas is inspired to use his music and personal story of survival and triumph to confront the stigma and fight the spread of HIV.

He asks, “Can songs save the world?”

 
 
 
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In the west, the AIDS epidemic seems like it’s from another era - a once deadly virus tamed by medical science. But in the developing world, the crisis is far from over.

Over 60% of people living with HIV reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, the official adult HIV prevalence rate is stuck at 13%.

Guilt, shame, and stigma associated with the virus prevent many Zambians from choosing to be tested, so transmission rates remain high and unchecked, and the epidemic rages on.

The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Initiative targets 2020 as the year where 90% of all people living with HIV will know their status, 90% of all people with diagnosed will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

If this is to be achieved, there is clearly a steep mountain to climb.

 
 
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The subject of “Doin’ My Drugs,” the film documents Buttenschøn’s rise to activism, as he brings the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS to the people of his native Zambia.

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“St. Maiko” Zulu is an acclaimed Zambian musician and passionate human-rights activist. His work on behalf of exploited children is well known throughout Sub Saharan Africa.

Zulu serves as Zambia’s Child Ambassador to the United Nations International Labor Organization. Zulu is married to prominent musician Sista ‘D, Zambia’s leading women’s rights activist.

Zulu and Buttenschøn co-wrote “Children of Freedom” for the “Doin’ My Drugs” soundtrack. His daughter, Mwiza, adds vocals to the track.

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A groundbreaking Zambian rapper known for his “flow”, Brian Bwembya is a passionate advocate for womens rights. His album “Voiceless Woman” brought national attention to the growing domestic violence problem in Zambia. “Woman” garnered two Zambian Music Awards.

In 2015 B-Flow was selected as the Zambian representative for President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative. He also serves as brand ambassador for the AIDS Health Care Foundation (AHF) and USAID-funded SHARE II and is the chairman for the HIV/AIDS and Social Commentary (HASC) team of the Zambia Association of Musicians (ZAM).

B-Flow is featured on Thomas’ track Keep On Talkin’, which will appear on the Doin’ My Drugs soundtrack album.

 
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Simply known as “Danny,” Danny Kaya remains the most popular Zambian musician of the past 20 years. His ardent HIV/AIDS activism has raised awareness across Zambia but not without controversy.

His song “Yakumbuyo,” concerning homosexuality, raised eyebrows in the conservative political landscape, but resulted in the distribution of condoms in male prisons.

Danny provides vocals in the local Zambian dialect on the title track of the “Doin’ My Drugs” soundtrack.

 
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John Chiti is a hugely popular Zambian musician and activist. The first albino to break through as a leading recording artist, John uses his music to shatter the ignorance, prejudice and violence persecuted against albinos.

Incredibly, many Africans believe that albino body parts can yield riches and magical healing powers. Because of this, they are routinely hunted and killed for their body parts.

Chiti’s NGO, the Zambia Albino Foundation, raises awareness about albinism across Zambia and throughout Africa.

Chiti is featured on the song “London Weather” from the “Doin’ My Drugs” soundtrack.

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After connecting with Zambia’s top musician activists, Thomas finds inspiration in their passion to enact social change through music. Together, the musicians write and record an album.

Their collaboration culminates in “Doin’ My Drugs,” the original motion picture soundtrack to the documentary. Recorded in Lusaka and Los Angeles, the album is a powerful, soulful and emotionally-charged expression of Thomas’ fight against the stigma and misinformation surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

 
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In 2015, Buttenschøn founded the Muchimba Music Foundation (MMF), dedicated to creating change and awareness through music.

MMF created a program where residents of Lusaka could receive free tickets to Thomas’s concert if they agreed to an HIV test. MMF subsequently has held Test For Tickets concerts during the past two years in the Zambian capitol of Lusaka, an effort that proved extremely effective in shattering the stigma around testing, and providing treatment to those who test positive.

During MMF’s 2015 campaign, an astounding 10,802 Zambians were tested, and over 1,000 of those testing positive were enrolled into HIV counseling and treatment programs. The Test for Tickets program is already reshaping the conversation Zambians are having about HIV/AIDS.

Our future goal is to expand the Test For Tickets campaign into a countrywide tour, visiting the capitol cities of each of the ten Zambian provinces, in order to reach those most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Thomas's objective is to test as many Zambians as possible, enroll those who need care into care, and drive down infection rates countrywide. Within the next several years, Test For Tickets will have a significant impact in Zambia, and beyond.

 
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TYLER Q ROSEN DIRECTOR / PRODUCER

A Producer, Director and Production Designer, Rosen’s directorial stylings are best described as being in the Direct Observational Cinema tradition. Rosen and Thomas Buttenschøn have been collaborating for over nine years now. This film is the culmination of all they have experienced together.

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FAX BAHR PRODUCER

A Writer, Director, and Show Runner for numerous film and television projects, Bahr won an Emmy for Hearts Of Darkness, A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, his directorial debut. Hearts also won Best Documentary from the National Board of Review, the National Film Board of Canada, and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival.

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URIAH HERR PRODUCER

Uriah is a Director, Producer and Screenwriter who has produced and directed numerous short films, documentaries, music videos and commercials for international brands.

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JAY MIRACLE EDITOR

Jay has edited on nearly 40 documentaries, including Carpe Kili, Newman, and 20 Feet From Stardom. Several of the films he edited have gone on to win Academy Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and Emmys. Jay won a Best Editing Emmy for his work on Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

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THOM RUSSO, JR. ALBUM PRODUCER

Thom has been involved in many film and television projects. He participated in the music for Alejandro Inarratu’s film, “Amorres Perros”, along with working on a large variety of films like “Collateral” (by Michael Mann), “Man on Fire”, And “Spider-Man” I and II. Russo has won 16 Grammy Awards for his music production work.

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