HIV and Film: A
Longtime Companion, like Buddies and
Parting Glances before it, drew
criticism in the early '90s for depicting only
privileged white gay males with AIDS. Yet since those
films, we’ve seen a far more diverse
assortment of poz characters, including some who
are socially acceptable and others un-PC
outrageous. The latest addition to reality is the new
release Before I Forget, with its jaded,
HIV-positive, ex-gigolo senior citizen protagonist.
Here’s a quick glance at how cinema
has presented the disease and those living with
A Virus Has No Morals (1986) German
maverick Rosa Von Praunheim crafted a pitch-black dark
comedy/horror AIDS film that skewered gay activists,
Christianity, the government, and the medical
Via Appia (1990) A German flight
attendant revisits Rio de Janeiro to track down the
hustler who infected him, leaving “Welcome to the
AIDS club” scrawled on his bathroom mirror. And
no, he’s not the kind of person with a
passionate persuasion for dancing or romancing.
The Living End (1992) Finally, American
queer filmmakers said, “Fuck politeness.”
Director Gregg Araki presented us with two pissed-off
poz guys with a gun. The gay male Thelma and
Zero Patience (1993) The ghost of Gaetan
Dugas, a Quebecois flight attendant once dubbed the
epidemic’s “Patient Zero,” returns as a
ghost to clear his name in John Greyson’s zany
AIDS musical. The late, great Michael Callen appeared as a
singing HIV particle.
Savage Nights (1994) Cyril
Collard’s confessional feature starred himself as a
bisexual antihero who faced his disease by ignoring
it, indulging in unprotected sex with a smitten lover
(the astounding Romane Bohringer), and anonymous
tricks. The film ignited controversy and snagged
France’s Oscar four nights after Collard
succumbed to AIDS.
Red Ribbon Blues (1996) Drag divas RuPaul
and Lypsinka (a.k.a.John Epperson) starred sans dresses
in this film about HIV-positive drugstore cowboys who steal
a new über-expensive miracle AIDS treatment and
distribute it amongst the needy. Viva La
Chrissy (1999) Jacqui North’s
Australian documentary represents one of the rare
portraits of a lesbian with AIDS.
Adventures of Felix (2000) An upbeat,
HIV-positive North African crosses France to find his father
and assembles a new family on the way, all while adhering to
his drug regimen. Star Sami Bouajila went on to play a
bisexual cop in André Téchiné’s
recent AIDS drama, The Witnesses.
The Old Testament (2002) In this no budget
indie from Beijing queer underground filmmaker, Cui
Zi’en, a lover rocks his relationship by taking in an
AIDS-afflicted ex. Welcome to the 21st-century,
Bear Cub (2004) While Jason Alexander lays
claim to playing one of film’s first
HIV-positive bears in Love! Valour!
Compassion!, actor José Luis García-Pérez
fronted this sexually explicit Spanish import about a
promiscuous dentist who faces hairy issues like gay
parenting and living with HIV.