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Posts tagged “AIDS

InsideOut ’11: We Were Here


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.

ph. fabmagazine

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.


Scene: Shortbus and Mitchell



ph. Fortissimo

New Yorkers are permeable, you know what I mean.

Yeah.

Yes you are.

Mm-hmm.

Yeah. Therefore, we’re sane. Consequently, we are the target of the impermeable and the insane.

Yeah.

And of course, New York is where everyone comes. To be forgiven. Whatever you’ve done. Tell me, how have you sinned? I’m sure it’s nothing serious.

How would you know?

Well, I’m sure you did your best. But imagine, if you grew up here like I did, home can be very unforgiving. It’s true. People said I didn’t do enough to help prevent the AIDS crisis because I was in the closet. That’s not true. I did the best I could. I was, I was scared, and impermeable. Everybody knew so little then. I know even less now.

As part of the CINSSU Fall Academic Seminar, University of Toronto Professor and breathtaking taskmaster Corrin Columpar let us in on a new book she’s working on – one about the collaborative process of filmmaking that directors like John Cameron Mitchell use. She also talks about this scene in context to 9/11 and Judith Butler‘s “Frames of War.” She discusses the duality of permeability and impermeability, how both 9/11 and the AIDS crisis is framed by other media so that America prefers a to attack instead a better alternative, mourning. Vigilance, unfortunately, is more destructive than mourning. And Dr. Columpar, please don’t sue me.

Only in this scene, this emotional rich scene does Rabbit Hole make sense as a part of Mitchell’s career trajectory.

It’s gonna be difficult not to talk about how this scene affects me and enlightens me. I know it’s a bit stereotypical to have a septuagenarian representing the 1970’s or the 80’s while some of the people I’ve met and talked to who were around ‘back then’ are virile men in their forties or fifties, who don’t necessarily open up to their experiences then and then I didn’t wanna pry. I can only imagine what they’re thinking, especially with their loss and the carelessness that the new generation has adapted. But then the AIDS generation are the men between sixteen to sixty in those days. And the character was closeted during the time, although I’m not sure how much he participated in the scene in its heyday. And that’s as much as I would like to discuss on that note.

There’s a lot going on here – the voyeurs like Sophia (Sook-Yin Lee) and the Jamies (Paul Dawson and PJ DeBoy), the conversation between Ceth (Jay Brannan) and the former New York Mayor (Alan Mandell), the band on stage singing about secret handshakes, the condomless orgy where one of its participants sneaking a glance at the couple. There are thus two kinds of shot-counter shot relationships. Shot – older man, counter shot younger man. Shot – the couple, counter shot voyeurs in three different places within the room, and I don’t think I’ve seen a shot-counter shot relationship like the latter, unless correct me if I’m wrong, I suppose. To the voyeurs – and to me, honestly – it might have looked like a grandpa trying to pick up a rent boy. However, the scene, ending on a close-up of two of them, makes sure that we see a connection between them that’s beyond or even outside love or lust.

And now to eventually see the rest of the movie. Can someone put this back on a rep theatre again? Because as you know, I stubbornly see films mostly in the theatres.