The film 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 it:
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 establishment alike.
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 Louise.
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 Revolución!
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, China.
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.