Today is World AIDS Day 2017. To show our backing for this year’s National AIDS Trust campaign, here’s our RADIANT CIRCUS guide to ten films about HIV & AIDS.
According to the National AIDS Trust, his year has seen the first significant reductions in HIV diagnoses for gay men in London. This is thanks to frequent testing, rapid treatment and PrEP. However, this isn’t the same across the UK and, for the more than 100,000 people living with HIV in this country, ignorance and discrimination still limit life opportunities.
In celebration of lives lived and lost since the start of the pandemic, our next TEN-IN-ONE SHOW focuses on world cinema where HIV & AIDS plays a significant role. We’ve included beautiful arthouse, passionate documentary and irresponsible exploitation (as is our bent). Not all films are easy viewing. But there again, ending HIV transmission won’t be easy. Let’s make this World Aids Day our turning point: #LetsEndIt.
TEN FILMS ABOUT HIV & AIDS (A to Z)
BLUE (1993): Derek Jarman’s seminal single shot film about the progression of his HIV diagnosis and eventual loss of sight was released only four months before his death of AIDS-related illnesses. BLUE recently enjoyed its time in the spotlight at Tate Britain – read our writeup HERE.
CONFESSIONS (2010): A mother and teacher enacts revenge on the death of her daughter by injecting HIV-infected blood into the milk cartons of two students she claims to be responsible. A lot of talking – and all hell – breaks loose.
KIDS (1995): There isn’t a way of writing about Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s film other than to use the hackneyed phrase ‘still shocking, even today’. It’s a film about sexually active teenagers and their (beyond) casual approach to HIV, drugs, sex, skateboards and each other. The lack of moral outrage is precisely the point.
THE LIVING END (1992): Gregg Araki’s film follows two gay, HIV-positive men who go on a road trip together. It’s a lot like THELMA & LOUISE with added abs, floppy hair and a “fuck everything” attitude. One of the cornerstones of New Queer Cinema.
MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART (2016): Cecilia Aldarondo’s highly personal documentary reveals “the silent, often shameful histories of Latin American men that suffered from AIDS during the height of its crisis” (Remezcla). Twenty-five years after her uncle Miguel died of AIDS-related illnesses, Aldarondo tracks down his estranged lover Robert and discovers unresolved family drama.
PANDEMIC: FACING AIDS (2003): A groundbreaking HBO documentary series that gives a global dimension to the pandemic. Rory Kennedy explores the impact of HIV/AIDS on five people living with HIV in Russia, India, Uganda, Brazil and Thailand, showing education and prevention campaigns that have worked to slow new infections, as well as the prejudices and apathy that have put millions at risk.
STATE OF DENIAL (2003): Echoing Ronald Reagan’s inability to say the words at the height of the American crisis (see our next film…), Elaine Epstein’s documentary looks at the devastating refusal of President Mbeki’s South African government to acknowledge the connection between HIV and AIDS, even refusing vital life-saving drugs to its people.
UNITED IN ANGER: A HISTORY OF ACTUP (2012): A powerful reminder of what happens when American Presidents pander to the prejudices of their electorate and don’t use the ‘best words’. Jim Hubbard’s documentary uses oral histories and archival footage to look at the rise of the grassroots movement from its early days to its sustained attacks on political neglect, public indifference and corporate greed.
WE WERE HERE (2011): A documentary about the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco featuring 5 different people talking about the role they played: a counsellor, an activist, an HIV+ artist, a florist who provided flowers for (far too many) funerals, and a nurse who helped administer antiretroviral drug trials. You will cry out of sheer sadness, anger, admiration and determination.
ZERO PATIENCE (1993): Forgive us for repeating ourselves, but there are (very) few musicals about HIV/AIDS other than the ubiquitous RENT… ZERO PATIENCE featured in our last list about HORROR MOVIE MUSICALS, but John Greyson’s stylised appeal to de-stigmatise HIV transmission – with the help of ghosts, singing puppet buttholes and swimming viruses – is a very worthy way of rounding out today’s list.
What would be in your alternative list? Tell us in the comments below.
Read what RADIANT CIRCUS said about World AIDS Day last year HERE.
Join the hunt for adventurous moving pictures.
Featured image: MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART (2016).