World AIDS Day 2016


I rarely offer unsolicited advice. But this year given our collective, national, post-election anxiety, stress, and depression, I want to remind every one of one big thing. My generation survived AIDS*. Not everyone. There were a lot of casualties. And a lot of grief. It wasn’t easy. It was horrific and hard and brutal and exhausting. But we banded together and figured it out. Positive and negative, male and female, LGBT, queer, and straight, rural, urban, and suburban, rich, poor, and in-between, all colors, and all creeds. It’s what you do when you’re faced with a crisis.

So here we are once again facing an uncertain future. This time it’s not a disease affecting a few, but an amoral ideology infecting many. I have every hope we will rise up and morph our culture, country and world into the hopeful, inclusive, united planet we are meant to be. How else are we ever going to witness first contact? Seriously though, I’m here as a survivor. As someone who faced mortality and with the help of many am here today not just surviving, but thriving. I’m here to help, to offer occasional sage wisdom, to fight, to encourage, to support, and to love. As long as we are breathing we need to come together and work to make this world a better, more peaceful, kind, and prosperous place for all. We need to leave it in better shape than we found it for the next generation.

So this year, let Reel Charlie’s HIV/AIDS film list for World AIDS Day act as metaphor for a country in desperate need of healing. We faced the worst epidemic of the 20th Century. We are on our way to curing this disease once and for all so everyone affected by it can thrive. We can do the same for our democracy in the 21st Century.

*Disclaimer: I realize my view of the HIV/AIDS epidemic manifests from the lens of first-world, white male privilege. It is not my intent to ignore the continuing crisis of HIV/AIDS in poor and minority communities in the U.S. or in third world countries around the globe. Today my hope is to focus on the positive aspects of controlling HIV and eradicating AIDS which have allowed people like me to survive and thrive over the past 30 plus years since the discovery of the HIV virus. 49.6% of people infected with HIV globally currently have access to life-saving drugs which can make the disease chronic. See for details on the continuing struggle to eradicate HIV and AIDS.

Below find my favorite films that focus on HIV and AIDS.  Some are feature films, some documentaries, 2 are musicals:

The Adventures of Felix – celebratory French film about a young HIV+ man embracing life on the new medication in the mid-90’s.
And the Band Played On – based on journalist Randy Shilts’s book.
Angels in America – based on the award-winning play from Tony Kushner.
All About My Mother – one of the (still) few films using AIDS themes from a female perspective – an Almodovar classic.
Before I Forget – French film about an aging HIV+ male hustler.
Blue – Derek Jarman’s meditation on his AIDS diagnosis and imminent death.
Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt – Academy Award winning documentary on the AIDS Quilt.
Dallas Buyers Club – a straight-identified man starts one of the first buyers clubs in the U.S. bringing experimental drugs into the United States from other countries.
Days – Italian film about a sero-discordant couple (one HIV+, one HIV-).
How to Survive a Plague – outstanding documentary on the history of ACT-UP.
Jeffrey – explores the tension around gay men and sex during the AIDS crisis.
Longtime Companion – Hollywood film about NYC gay men dealing with the worst of the AIDS crisis.
The Normal Heart – HBO adaptation from Ryan Murphy of Larry Kramer’s award-winning play.
Parting Glances – Steve Bucemi’s break-out performance as a punk rock HIV+ gay man in NYC.
Paul Monette: The Brink of Summer’s End (only released on VHS) – amazing documentary on the final days of writer Paul Monette.
Poison – Todd Haynes Queer Cinema classic.  Very experimental. Included on the disk and in the review is the short Last Address, an 8 minute film focusing on NYC buildings by director Ira Sachs.
Postcards from America – based on artist David Wojnarowicz’s life and writing.
Rent – the film based on the hit Broadway musical.
Sex in an Epidemic – documentary about the AIDS crisis in the United States.
Sex Positive – documentary of the evolution of “safer sex”.
Test – beautiful indie film about a young dancer in San Francisco deciding whether to take the new HIV test in the early 1980’s.
Vito – biopic on Vito Russo who wrote the seminal work on queer film, The Celluloid Closet and left us way to early from AIDS.
We Were Here – intimate documentary focusing on several people who witnessed the early plague years in San Francisco.
Zero Patience – John Greyson’s musical about AIDS.  still so out there and revolutionary.
Follow Reel Charlie’s Health category for future postings.
Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Barbara who loves sharing her birthday with World AIDS Day.


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