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Film Reviews

The documentary is also punctuated by various statistics that detail Americans diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the epidemic’s earlier years. The documentary relates and narrates the lives of Dr. Tom Waddell, who founded Gay Games, a young hemophiliac David Mandell, Robert Perryman who got AIDS by injecting drugs, Jeffrey Sevcik who was gay, and David Campbell who was a veteran in the US Navy. As well as their personal stories, the film documents the delayed response to AIDS by the Reagan administration using archival footage of government officials (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt), reactions by medical practitioners, and the initial attempts by gay men to use the AIDS issue to organize the community. The documentary clearly brings into focus the AIDS era, although it does not break any new ground that has not already been covered. However, what makes this film important is that it creates and documents a historical era during which hysteria on AIDS and its relation to the gay community was starting to turn to compassion for those who were infected. It seems to tell that this only occurred at the end of the Reagan administration, which, from the film, considered the disease to be a moral issue and not a public healthcare issue. The film narrates how AIDS broke barriers between middle class families of heterosexual leaning and the gay community in finding a common ground. One touching moment was when the Mandell family asserted they were middle-class Americans who, when it came to AIDS, found out that there was no Middle America as everyone who was affected clung to one another. Every story in this documentary is well narrated by those who survived the victims and who are on the quilt. The film draws sympathy as Sally Perryman talks about Robert, her husband, and the way he struggled to end his drug addiction until he died of AIDS. There is heartbreak when the Mandell family takes the viewer through the pictures and videos of their son, as he became sicker, while their struggle with prejudice from their community shows how stigmatizing the disease still was in the 80s. The film also discusses the life of Vito Russo, who originally wrote The Celluloid Closet prior to his death from AIDS in his prime. However, the story, which is most revealing is Tracy Torrey’s, whose partner David Campbell died, as he also is. He is shown on his bed dying with lesions and unable to rise from his bed. This film is a chilling look into how AIDS affected the entire country without discrimination. Silverlake Life: The View from Here (1993) This film documents the experiences that TOM Joslin, a film professor at UCLA, and his partner Mark Massi after Tom’s AIDS diagnosis (Silverlake Life: The View from Here). The film traces his struggles as he tries to cope with an AIDS diagnosis, especially their trip to New Hampshire for a Christmas celebration that Joslin believes is the last with his family, which has refused to accept his partner for the last 22 years. As the documentary progresses, the filmmaker makes it clear that the love between the two partners is what has made the disease bearable for Joslin. The filming continues after Tom’s demise, showing the manner in which the undertakers and other people handle his body through the filming work of Peter Friedman, his friend, who chronicles Massi’s acceptance by the family following Joslin’s demise. This documentary does not have overt political statements and acts only as a record of the experiences of two lovers as one of them dies from an incurable disease. The first-person diary style used to shoot the film enables the viewer to see the intensity of ...Show more

Summary

Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt is a documentary film released in 1989 by Dustin Hoffman.It follows the story on NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, focusing on various people represented by Quilt panels by combining footage from the archives and personal stories …
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