I know World AIDS Day was upon us last Friday and I’m totally off my mark here, but I thought I’d throw my 2 cents in anyways (and also think about preparing my posts in a more timely manner). I’m not going to write about the Global Fund’s recent freeze of Round 11 Funds. You can read about that here. Instead, I decided to write about some of the beautiful, tragic and thought-provoking films that have sprung up in the last decade about the early days of the AIDS crisis.
We Were Here was just released in November and chronicles the rise and viral spread of a strange and terrible disease among the San Francisco gay men’s community in the 1980s. It’s a film that also is about LGBTQ movement lead by Harvey Milk. But also, it is a film about humanity and the spread of love – how seemingly disparate communities merged to fight this unknown infection. It’s on my must-see list. And if you want to find out a bit more about this era, the flawed, but dramatic book, And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, provides an in depth portrayal of the people and players involved in the discovery of HIV in the 1980s. I deeply object to the vicious portrayal of the French Canadian flight attendant who is accused of being Patient Zero and spreading the virus across continents. But nonetheless, the book is a great introduction to how it all started.
In the sphere of the televised drama comes HBO and Mike Nichol’s Angels in America, the miniseries adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tony Kushner. And it’s much more than the virus – this miniseries gives the socio-political and economic environment that HIV spread a dramatic face. With amazing performances by Jeffrey Wright, Meryl Streep, Al Pacino and a really young Patrick Wilson – Angels in America is definitely a rental or download to get acquainted with those trying times.
And from the other side of the Atlantic comes Taking Haart, a documentary about South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign, an NGO that fought hard to bring HIV/AIDS treatment to those who needed it most in the age after apartheid. Lead by the enigmatic Zackie Achmat, this doco takes a look at all sides in the fight for HIV treatment in South Africa, and adds more reminders to how far the fights against HIV/AIDS has come, but also how much more of this war there is left to fight.