How to Survive a Plague

10 11 2012

This movie has been on my watchlist for some time now, and I was afraid I wouldn’t get to see it in theatres, since it’s 1. a documentary, which means it already has a limited release, and 2. that it’s not a huge, well-known doc right now, like The Queen of Versaiiles or Ai Weiwei.  I was pleasantly surprised to see on the Van City Theatre’s site a week ago that it was indeed coming to town, and quickly noted down the showtimes.

Well, I finally saw it tonight, and wow.  I’ve seen two documentaries on the AIDS Crisis this year alone, and this one is by far the best, and the most emotionally moving.  Needless to say, I cried at a few parts in the film, and had to restrain myself from downright sobbing in my seat when activists dumped their loved ones’ ashes on the lawns in front of the White House in protest.  Just watching the trailer makes me tear up.

I really hope this film gets nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary.  It’s so well put together and so devastating.  It’s just one of those films that you wish everyone would — no, must — watch to understand.

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

23 08 2012

Synopsis: a look at ACT UP, an organization vita during the AIDS Crisis in the US during the 1980s.

Super awesome things: I’ve actually been wanting and waiting to see this film for a while.  It screened in town a few months back and I missed the screening and was sad to be unable to find it anywhere online.  So imagine my surprise when I saw that the Queer Film Festival was to be screening this film!  Hell yeah!

There’s so much to say about this film that it’s difficult where to begin.  Interviews with original ACT UP members, archival footage of protests including the big one at the FDA — it’s all extremely powerful stuff, especially considering these mass protests don’t happen much today (with the exception of, say, the Occupy protests).  “ACT UP!  Fight back!  Fight AIDS!” they say (among many things) countless times throughout the film.  THere’s a strong sense that people were literally willing to die for change — some even speak openly about that.  This is what makes United in Anger so raw and powerful: it taps into our human need and drive for change, something so very emotional — something universal.  And the “die-in” at a Roman Catholic Church in New York, where members of the group silently leaped from pews into the aisle to show everyone the amount of those dying every day, has got to be one of the most powerful and bravest things anyone has done as a form of protest, I gotta say.  Such a powerful statement without words.

Not so awesome things: the archival footage is fantastic, but because it’s guerrilla filmmaking, the quality isn’t very good.  More importantly, it’s extremely shaky, and midway through the film, I found myself getting nauseated, despite sitting practically at the back of the theatre.

As well, despite the information about ACT UP, it’s not a balanced film.  There are no interviews or anyone with opposing views of the group.  Sure, there’s the asshole Bishop and the FDA not testing drugs for HIV patients, but no direct interviews.  I’m sure ACT UP wasn’t a perfect organization, and I’m sure they screwed up one time or another, but as presented in this film, it appears they never have.

Good for watching: for a history on gay/queer rights.

Overall: a very good doc, held back from being great by unbalanced info and lack of quality.

Grade: B+