It doesn’t take much to make me cry at movies (just ask Meg Ryan), but a new documentary about the early years of AIDS and the activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) brought the waterworks multiple times when I saw it last Friday. Here’s the trailer:
- Footage of underground pharmacies and drug testing labs created when the government and pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t do anything.
- Activist and journalist Garance Franke-Ruta’s 80s glasses (that’s her in the photo). So good! Also the fact that while others are introduced as “Bond Trader” or “Doctor”, her caption is simply “Teenager”.
- The ex-bond trader Peter Staley getting some initially unemotional attendees at the 1990 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco to get up from their seats and shout ACT UP slogans shaming the government’s inaction.
Unfortunately, as my friend Ralowe pointed out, the movie ends leaving audiences thinking, “And now the epidemic is over. We won!” when the defunding of care programs for people with HIV/AIDS is a constant threat and big pharma is powerful and greedy as ever. Not to mention that now the most visible gay activism is centered around stuff like openly serving in the military so’s we can kill Pakistani children with drones. (Somebody’s gotta do it!)
ACT UP is still going in NYC and Philly and meets regularly here in San Francisco. If you were at Folsom Street Fair last weekend, maybe you saw their “condom toss”; I’m not part of the group, but yours truly helped fill up a few condoms with hair conditioner (“cum”), which were offered to passers-by who were given a chance to throw them at cardboard effigies of Mitt Romney, Todd Akin, Paul Ryan, and Stacey Campfield.
HTSAP comes out on de heels of some other HIV/AIDS-related movies worth a watch: We Were Here (mentioned on Where’s Lulu last year), Vito (about ACT UP activist Vito Russo), and United in Anger (which also centers around ACT UP in New York).