New Internationalist

Film review: We Were Here

December 2011

Directed by Bill Weissman and David Weber.

This is an immensely powerful, compassionate and inspiring documentary centred around five people’s recollections of the AIDS epidemic that emerged in San Francisco in the early 1980s. With well-placed photographs and news clips, we get a well-rounded, unselfconscious and frank account of caring, solidarity, political campaigning and victories, medical trials, a transformation in American social attitudes, and, although 16,000 people died, successful treatment and survival.

There are many harrowing moments. Photographs of Kaposi’s sarcoma appear in a chemist’s window before anyone knows what it is. A nurse talks about removing eyes for research into viral-caused blindness. But she also talks about the immense contribution from lesbian women in a society without universal healthcare.

It took solidarity, courage and political campaigning to turn things around. Very, very movingly, a florist, an ex-professional dancer, describes a man declining and ageing physically, and, expecting soon to hear the worst, later sees him appear walking without a stick and then riding a bike.

This is a marvellous doc that can change attitudes and ought to be shown in schools. Unmissable.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 448 This column was published in the December 2011 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 448

New Internationalist Magazine issue 448
Issue 448

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