Friday, September 24, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: AIDS in DC

Like most of the interviewees in the eye-opening new documentary The Other City (now playing in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC), I was surprised to learn that our nation's capitol now has the highest number of HIV infections in the US. 3% of the citizens in the repository of American ideals and values have HIV/AIDS, compared with the previous national high of 4% in San Francisco during the height of the pandemic in 1992. The Centers for Disease Control considers 1% of any given population with an infectious disease "a generalized and severe epidemic."

In The Other City, director Susan Koch and Huffington Post senior contributing editor Jose Antonio Vargas introduce us to various Washingtonians haunted by the specter of AIDS. They include J'Mia, an HIV-positive single mother of three young children who is suddenly faced with homelessness; Jose, who was infected when he was 17 and now educates teens about HIV/AIDS (young people ages 13-29 now account for more than a third of new infections each year); the staff and residents of Joseph's House, a filled-to-capacity AIDS hospice; and Ron, a recovering drug addict who today distributes clean needles to other users.

DC's city leaders are shown throughout to be woefully ineffective at either halting the spread of HIV or addressing the needs of those already infected. The film reveals that any progress made in this regard has more often than not been achieved by those living with the virus. The Other City serves as a severe indictment of those chiefly charged with providing political and moral leadership in the US.

The film also serves as a needed reminder that HIV/AIDS is still killing people and isn't going away. It is most moving when following the plight of Jimmy, a 35-year old resident of Joseph's House for whom the AIDS "cocktail" medications have simply stopped working. We watch as he and his family slowly lose their joint struggle of 17 years against the virus.

How many more deaths — and documentaries — will it take before US leaders and citizens learn that AIDS doesn't discriminate and continues to decimate our nation and world?

Reverend's Rating: A-

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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