Friday, December 9, 2011

Reel Thoughts: Look Back in Anguish

In the 30 years since the AIDS crisis first reared its ugly head, it seems some people have forgotten what it was all about, how the LGBT community reacted then and how it changed the way we live and are more accepted today.  In the moving documentary We Were Here (now in select theaters and premiering today on Pay-Per-View and Video on Demand), filmmaker David Weissman and the four people who are interviewed on camera insist that people remember.

We Were Here pieces together what life was like in the Castro District of San Francisco in the '80s and early '90s as people first became terrified of the nameless afflictions that were killing formerly healthy men so quickly, then became angry as the government seemed content to let the disease run its course unabated through the gay community. It was before many people can remember, but there was a time when people like Lyndon LaRouche and Jerry Falwell were pushing legislation to quarantine people with AIDS and fought to stigmatize them at their most vulnerable time. Mostly, We Were Here shows how the LGBT community came together to help one another and fight for a cure.


People like nurse Eileen Glutzer, who is featured in the film, were among the few who would go into the rooms of AIDS patients and offer them care and love, when even her coworkers refused to do so out of fear of the disease. The other three people interviewed are men who lived through the disease and watched as more than 15,000 people died in San Francisco alone.

Despite its somber subject matter, We Were Here (which was recently named a finalist for next year's Academy Awards) is must-see viewing for everyone in the LGBT community. It is a powerful rallying cry to fight for the rights and protections we deserve. It also shows how different groups in our community can pull together in times of need, like the women's community, which provided life-saving blood drives in the Castro when gay men were prohibited from donating when the need was so great.

Times have changed and HIV is no longer a death sentence, but it is vital to remember the past so that it isn't repeated.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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