It was announced just before the screening of this David France documentary that he won Best Director at the IFP Gotham Independent Film Awards. There was also plenty of praise heaped upon it at the Sundance Film Festival. Admittedly, this really piqued my interest in the film. It would also give me a chance to learn about the fight these two coalitions led to bring increased awareness and funding to the fight against the horrible disease, AIDS.
David France wrote and directed this documentary. It is a look at two coalitions – Act Up and TAG – and their fight against the lack of attention being paid to the plague that is AIDS. It follows Act Up and TAG through the years as they and their members tried to educate people around the world about how large an effect that AIDS was having on the young population. The leaders of the two groups had to fight long and hard against ignorance and the government. No one seemed to want to see this as a serious issue that was killing a lot of people. These ordinary people had to attempt to do extraordinary things in order to achieve what they wanted.
In the 1980s the AIDS epidemic was killing a ton of people. In the late 1980s Act Up began and Treatment Action Group (TAG) splintered off from it. The two groups had to fight against prejudice of the many who thought of this as something that only affected the gay community. They began grassroots efforts and education endeavours. Their efforts brought about radical changes in the way the disease was seen and dealt with including the way the patients and medical practitioners interacted.
France uses interviews, home movies and archival footage to tell the story. The amount of information and new stuff contained in the film is almost overwhelming. For instance, the contribution of the lesbian community in the fight is documented for almost the first time. It also affords the viewer a sense of intimacy with the subject and those involved not previously possible. This is possible because David France was one of the original journalists covering the story and he was obviously very caught up in it. You end up feeling so close to the activists and those struck down with the disease that you find yourself totally caught up in what is going on. Your heart breaks at the suffering, you are angry at the ignorance and lack of action, and you cheer the developments.