ACT UP At Outfest
7/9/2012 4:00:00 PM
By Alex Garner
This year Outfest celebrates it’s 30th anniversary and it does so by featuring three very compelling documentaries about HIV. Each of these films captures a very specific time when our community was experiencing the height of the AIDS crisis. It was a time of profound loss but also a time of intense activism.
The world has changed so dramatically since then but we must remember what our community went through to get to this point. Thanks to the hard work of so many people who will never been featured in a documentary, we are alive and thriving today.
And our stories don’t end with the advent of the drug cocktail. The crisis finally abated and we carried on. Our stories of the modern HIV experience can be provocative, poignant, funny and moving. It’s time for us to start telling them. Hopefully these films will remind people of the very real power of story telling so that others will be inspired to share their HIV stories and continue to have an impact on our worlds.
The film Vito is Outfest’s opening night Gala. The documentary tells the remarkable story of historian, writer and activist, Vito Russo. Vito’s activism started after Stonewall and ended with the defining issue of our time, the AIDS crisis. He wrote the groundbreaking book, The Celluloid Closet, which explored the way Hollywood depicts LGBT people and challenged us to demand better representation. The fight of Vito’s life was around HIV and while he lost that battle, the work that he did with ACT UP and GLAAD live on. Vito’s activism tells the story of the activist in all of us and how change can happen when we are willing to fight for it.
United In Anger is one of two documentaries about the history of ACT UP- The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. This particular documentary features interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project. The film is a story of a movement and the diverse kinds of people who came together in the midst of an indescribable tragedy to fight for their lives and the lives of their communities. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it hadn’t been for the work of ACT UP and this film helps us understand that ACT UP was more than brave protests and clever artwork, it was real people, each with their own unique story to tell.
Outfest’s Documentary Centerpiece is How to Survive a Plague. This film delves deep into the birth and political action of ACT UP. With catchy slogans, clever graphics and bottomless wells of anger, men and women were able to change the course of the AIDS epidemic and forever alter our world. ACT UP was the perfect example of what old fashioned, grassroots activism can accomplish and it serves as an example to the various movements that have followed.
Each of these films will provoke intense emotions and make you feel more alive. We live in this modern world of HIV because of the actions of countless activist. Some were lucky enough to be featured on film and other may be forgotten to history. But their legacy is our lives and our culture. The better we understand our past the stronger a legacy we can create for the generations that come after us.
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