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+

How Many Gays Must God Create Before We Accept That He Wants Them Around?

12 05 2011

I like logic because it makes sense and I understand.

This argument seems very logical to me.

Saturday Morning Documentary: Collapse

30 03 2011

Originally a documentary about the CIA, as it says in the opening titles of Collapse, the filmmakers, upon interviewing Michael Ruppert, a former journalist, discovered that he had a different and arguably more powerful message to say.  Filmed in 2009 in the middle of the global recession, the only person interviewed in the documentary is Ruppert — and he has, as we find out, a lot of things to say.  He starts off talking about the reason for the recession, believing the economy has reached peak oil, and the importance of it everywhere — oil is apparently in everything from tires to toothbrushes.  He outlines alternative fuel sources including solar power, electric, and nuclear, while also saying why these options aren’t any better (ie. since electric car parts such as tires need to be made from oil, they are, long-term, not a good solution, in his eyes).

Despite almost an hour and a half of him ranting, he comes across as an extremely intelligent and passionate man, really honestly trying to urge people to change, and he gives people advice that will either come across to viewers as helpful or crazy: he tells people to grow their own vegetables, keep seeds for crops, change your fiat currency (paper money) to gold since it pretty much will always have value, etc.  Some people might say he’s paranoid about the recession and that taking such drastic measures isn’t needed while others might find his words holding truth.  It is up to viewers to decide.

What is clear, however, is that at oil does impact the world at least more than I ever knew.  And as of the time of the filming, even after passionately pleading to people about all this, Ruppert was living with his dog, behind on his rent, and was apparently no longer giving talks anymore.  While he doesn’t come across as the most lovable man on the planet, you do feel some sympathy for him, especially after he fervently believes what he does.

A very well-made film that is definitely thought-provoking. How did this not get nominated for an Oscar?

Michael Ruppert

Saturday Morning Documentary: Storyville: The Most Dangerous Man in America

7 11 2010

When one thinks of the most dangerous man in America, maybe a serial killer would come to the mind.  Or a rapist.  Or even the president.  But how about Daniel Ellsberg?  Never heard of him?

“It was the evening of October 1st, 1969, when I first smuggled several hundred pages of top secret documents out of my safe at the Rand Corporation”.  The film starts off with this quote, said by Ellsberg.  We first learn Daniel started off working in the Pentagon at the very start of the Vietnam War and became one of the planners of the war that would eventually become one the American people would rebel against.  But in the beginning, people supported it, believing it was the right thing to do.  Ellsberg thought this as well.

Eventually, we realized there was no end in sight, that the US was fighting a losing battle and that if they did not pull out troops, more men would be dying.  As government officials continued to lie to the American public, Ellsberg knew he had to get the truth out there to everyone, that only public support would help end the war.

And so he stole and photocopied classified information and gave them to national newspapers across the country to publish.  One by one, the government under President Nixon suspended printing from these chains only to find another newspaper somewhere else in the country had printed more.  Meanwhile, the FBI is out looking for Ellsberg as he tries to stay out of their path.

The Most Dangerous Man in America is a great production and dramatization of an issue I knew nothing about, which only shows how much more accessible and engaging to a viewer who knows barely anything about the Vietnam War aside from where it took place (yes, cue the boos).  With interviews from Ellsberg, his wife, friends and associates and lots and lots of archival footage, Storyville succeeds in getting across one man’s desperate attempts to engage the American public and to question the goverment and their uncaring attitudes even when the truth was revealed — something that is still obviously applicable today.


Daniel Ellsberg