Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We Were Here

We Were Here is a powerful documentary about the impact of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco from its first signs to the present day.  Featured at the 16th Annual Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the film is a series of first hand accounts from those who lived in San Francisco during the early years of the AIDS crisis.  Those interviewed include everyone affected by this disease, those living with it, those who treated patients in the hospitals, and those who counseled those living with the disease.  Intertwined with the interviews is footage from news coverage of the public's reaction to the epidemic, marches to prevent violation of the affected's civil rights, and displays of real obituaries from the Bay Area Reporter of those who have died during the early years.  

The obituaries become a most powerful image as they begin to become layers and eventually engulf the entire screen to become a visual precursor of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt.  But the central message in the full screen of obituaries is to show the magnitude of how the AIDS epidemic was allowed to ravage just a single geographical region while the federal government in charge at the time turned a blind eye to what was going on before them.

One of the most heart wrenching stories is from a man who was infected in the early days of the disease and participated in an early drug trial that wound up killing all of the participants, including his partner at the time.  He accounts his survival to being too weak to handle the side affects and he dropped out of the trial after only a couple of months. 

This film should be seen by everyone, not only those who still think AIDS is a divine punishment, but by those who think they know the impact AIDS.  The stories told in this film show people who lived through one of the most traumatic periods of American history and are still willing to share their stories.

Randy Shilt's book And the Band Played Onlater developed into a filmchronicled the early days of the AIDS epidemic from a medical and political standpoint, whereas We Were Here shows a more personal view of the same story.  The two films together become a powerful history for a period in our history that should never be forgotten and should never be allowed to happen again.

The Filmfreak Mafia encourages everyone to watch the trailer for We Were Here and share it with your friends and loves ones.

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