There are a lot of movies out there that deal with HIV/AIDS. Many of these are informative and thought-provoking as well as entertaining, and it’s hard to beat a well-made movie for emotional impact and immediacy. (Check the bottom of this page for a few general links on movies dealing with HIV/AIDS.)
I’m hoping and planning to start getting more detailed summaries and reviews posted in the near future. In the meantime, here’s a little info on a few films. Check out the links to Amazon.com and the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) for more info. (NEW! I just posted a review of “Hope Positive” – scroll down to link to it.)
And the Band Played On (1993)
Based on a nonfiction book by Randy Shilts, this film — originally aired on HBO — portrays the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the political and scientific controversies that surrounded it. This is a very well-made movie (with a cast that includes a vast array of big Hollywood names) that takes viewers back to a time when HIV/AIDS was a terrifying mystery…to those who chose not to ignore it. The history it reveals is both tragic and maddening. While viewers may not agree with all the nuances of the film’s historical interpretation, this story goes a long way to explain many of the attitudes, perceptions, and suspicions that are still very evident in AIDS advocacy today. As someone who was born years after HIV/AIDS was discovered and identified, I found this film incredibly enlightening. (Amazon, IMDB)
A Closer Walk (2003)
This documentary looks at the AIDS crisis around the world, including areas in Africa, Eastern Europe, and North America. The film has classy production values, and makes powerful use of interviews, personal stories, and statistics. While it is somewhat dated at this point, it does provide a dramatic and fairly wide-ranging introduction to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. (Amazon, IMDB, official site)
Hope Positive (2007)
This short film features the stories of four HIV+ individuals, coming from Russia, South Africa, Jamaica, and the United States. While each discusses the pain and difficulties they encounter due to their HIV status, the main focus is on the hope they find through their Christian faith. I am privileged to know one of the stars of this film, and it would be worth seeing HOPE+ for his story alone. Taken together, the four perspectives are invaluable. (official site, watch online, IMDB)
Living with Slim (2004)
This short film (about half an hour) features interviews with seven HIV-positive children from Africa, where AIDS is often called “Slim.” This is an incredibly high-impact movie, revealing the beauty and heartbreak in these children’s lives with first-person immediacy. At my college, where it was often shown in classes, this film was known as a tear-jerker. It’s not cheesy or manipulative, but it doesn’t let you avoid seeing the genuine pathos of the situation either. (Amazon, filmmaker’s site)
Philadelphia was the first film from a major Hollywood studio to focus on AIDS as its main subject. Tom Hanks won an Oscar for his portrayal of Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer who goes to court against the law firm that unjustly and unlawfully fired him for having AIDS. Denzel Washington plays Beckett’s lawyer, who gradually overcomes his fear and suspicion and comes to understand Beckett as a human being. This film is well worth seeing, both for its historical importance, and its storyline, which still resonates powerfully today. (Amazon, IMDB)
Made in South Africa, Yesterday was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2005 Academy Awards. This film tells the story of an HIV+ mother in a Zulu village, who is determined to live long enough to see her little daughter go to school, even as she cares for her husband, who has AIDS. Though the plot sounds (and in many ways is) depressing, this movie offers both beauty and hope, putting a nuanced and very human face on the AIDS crisis in sub-Sarharan Africa. (Amazon, IMDB)
Here’s an interesting article from MSNBC, discussing movies (TV and theatrical release) dealing with AIDS over the past few decades.
This is Amazon.com’s list of the most popular movie and TV dramas with the theme “Living with AIDS.”
And finally, here are some suggestions for launching discussion about HIV/AIDS by organizing a movie night. The list of films here is pretty limited, but there’s some good advice on managing the logistics of this kind of event.