To honor World AIDS Day in its 24th year, I’ve decided to mark the occasion with 24 candles. And by candles I mean titles of documentaries about or involving HIV and/or AIDS. Of course there are many, many others, and this is not meant to be a best of list. Named in chronological order with minimal comment, here are simply 24 films to see to raise your awareness about the issue:
- Bright Eyes
(Stuart Marshall, 1987)
An early, landmark film tackling the fears and misunderstanding of AIDS and the mainstream media’s coverage of the crisis. Marshall himself died of AIDS in 1993.
- Suzi’s Story
(Iain Gillespie, 1987)
Another landmark feature from Australia, which was shown on HBO in the U.S., following a family in which the mother and her infant child have AIDS.
- Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt
(Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 1989)
Oscar-winning film from the makers of The Times of Harvey Milk and Celluloid Closet about the AIDS quilt and stories of those being commemorated by pieces of it. One of the first mainstream feature documentaries involving the topic (it was definitely the first I heard about).
- The Freddie Mercury Tribute: Concert for AIDS Awareness
(David Mallet, 1992)
Just what the title says: a concert film of a tribute event honoring Queen singer Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991.
- The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter
(David Paperny, 1993)
Oscar-nominated film compiled from the video diary of a man documenting his last two years as he was dying of AIDS.
- Silverlake Life: The View From Here
(Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin, 1993)
Sundance and Peabody Award-winning video diary of two gay companions (Joslin is one) over the course of their last days before dying of AIDS.
- Blood Brothers
(Jeff Patterson, 1998)
A film about blood supply companies and the tragedy of so many Hemophiliacs who contracted AIDS before enough was known about the virus. See DOC Channel’s Doc Talk segment on the film. Also available at the DOC Store.
- ABC Africa
(Abbas Kiarostami, 2001)
One of Iran’s greatest filmmakers travels to Uganda and documents the lives of children orphaned by AIDS. (pictured above)
- The Fire Within
(Leanne Whitney, 2002)
A story of true love through the marriage of longtime AIDS survivor Bob Bowers and his HIV-negative wife, who participates in a bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles for AIDS awareness. Airs on DOC Channel this evening and is available at the DOC Store.
- A Closer Walk
(Robert Bilheimer, 2003)
A film about HIV/AIDS all over the world, with narration from Glenn Close and Will Smith and appearances by Bono, Kofi Anan and the Dalai Lama.
- The Gift
(Louise Hogarth, 2003)
Controversial film about “bug chasers,” who are gay men who purposefully contract AIDS.
- State of Denial
(Elaine Epstein, 2003)
A look at AIDS in South Africa and the sad refusal by the government to recognize the link between HIV and AIDS or encourage antiretroviral drugs.
- The Origin of AIDS
(Peter Chappell and Catherine Peix Eyrolle, 2004)
Exploration of the controversial hypothesis that AIDS originated with contaminated polio vaccines in the Belgian Congo.
- Sex, Needles and Roubles
(Chloe Mercier, 2005)
A look at the fast-growing HIV crisis in Russia while following young drug-addicted prostitutes in St. Petersburg. Available in the DOC Store.
- The Age of AIDS
(Greg Barker and William Cran, 2006)
“Frontline” episode on the first 25 years of AIDS.
- The Blood of Yingzhou District
(Ruby Yang, 2006)
Academy Award-winning short on rural Chinese orphans whose parents died of AIDS.
- The Beaches of Agnes
(Agnes Varda, 2008)
Varda’s latest autobiographical doc finally addresses the cause of death of her husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, who it turns out died of AIDS in 1990.
- The Universe of Keith Haring
(Christina Clausen, 2008)
A biography and celebration of the eponymous artist, who died of AIDS in 1990 and whose work has become staple imagery associated with the cause.
- The Carrier
(Margaret Betts, 2010)
A quiet film following the lives of a polygamous Nambian family, in which all four adults are HIV-positive, during the latest, unintended pregnancy of one of the wives and afterward. Waiting on the test results that will show if the newborn is also positive or not is the hardest part.
Airing online for two special streaming screenings tonight on Constellation with proceeds going to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
- Last Address
(Ira Sachs, 2010)
From the director of narrative films like Married Life, this is a somber series of still shots of the last residences of New Yorkers who’ve died from AIDS, including Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe and Klaus Nomi.
- The Lazarus Effect
(Lance Bangs, 2010)
Produced by Spike Jonze, (RED) and HBO, this short is about antiretroviral drug treatment for HIV/AIDS patients in Zambia and the effects on suffering families.
- The Other City
(Susan Koch, 2010)
While HIV and AIDS have seemed less of an issue in the U.S. since drug cocktails started keeping more patients alive, it’s important to recognize there is still an epidemic presently in the nation’s capital.
(Zhao Liang, 2011)
About the making of Gu Changwei’s feature Life is a Miracle, about HIV/AIDS discrimination in China. The doc itself seeks to inform about the epidemic, and fortunately it was actually Zhao’s first doc allowed public release in mainland China.
- We Were Here
(David Weissman and Bill Weber, 2011)
A conventional yet powerful film about the early years of AIDS in San Francisco. Shortlisted for the Oscar and nominated for a Spirit Award. Screening in many cities worldwide tonight for World AIDS Day. See the film’s website for details.