You want me to knock an AIDS documentary? Fine, sometimes the end of the interview segments are slowed down before fading out, but that only happens twice. And of course, there was no mention of the hateful acronym GRID, but then this isn’t a pedantic regurgitation of the facts.
David Weissman’s We Were Here is interested in people. It lets its San Franciscan interview subjects begin at the beginning, Ed Wolf as a gay man who couldn’t fit into the cliques, Paul Boneberg continuing the spirit of the hippie era, artist Daniel Goldstein’s early days giving out flyers with Harvey Milk, Guy Clark as a flower shop owner, Eileen Glutzer taking her college feminist ethos and befriending gay men. They were frank and at times humorous about their perceptions about gay sexuality and activity, talking about it as a form of rebellion, an inevitable part of masculine wiring or simply calling it love between friends and boyfriends. Archive photos and footage is very helpful in many sections, showing for instance the big billboards for bath houses when they were still legal in the city, or general images of the men in the peak of their youth which are innately tragic.
The documentary also eases into the beginning of the AIDS crisis, coming into their lives rapidly. Strong young men were becoming sickly, filling up beds and dying days later. The five separate lives of the subjects become strung together through activism. Glutzer as a nurse braves wards with AIDS patients. Goldstein becomes one of the first affected by the outbreak and survives through medical flukes and emotional rough patches. The film bravely shows the men’s appearances change after being infected and veers into different questions and responses within and outside the community. As a young gay man, admittedly I still don’t realize the disease’s real effects. The film is more hopeful than depressing, showing creative ways in which the LGBT friendly community helped each other, but both sides of the coin still exist, and I should probably watch this documentary every day. 4/5.
- The Image They Left Behind (towleroad.com)