“United in Anger: A History of ACT UP”
Powerful and Sensitive
“United in Anger” is a powerful must see film that affected me as few films have. Those of us who lived through the AIDS epidemic now get an inside look at the heroes who by their very presence helped to save thousands of Lives. Personally I do not feel that we should ever be allowed to forget what AIDS did to our community and we see here that if the government had come forward, many more people would not have died needless deaths. This documentary shows us how ACT UP came into being as well as what it accomplished through the eyes of those who were there and worked within the movement. It does this by using oral testimonies and archival footage and shows us the battles against “corporate greed, social indifference, and government negligence”.
Produced by Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman and directed by Hubbard this is the first full-length documentary about ACT UP and it “focuses on how a small group of men and women came together to take on the people and institutions that were creating mass hysteria around the virus. The viewer witnesses such actions as Seize Control of the FDA, Stop the Church, and Day of Desperation, and is able to get insight into the group’s complex culture”.
We tend to forget our history and this movie is here to never let us forget the efforts of the movement that was directly responsible for keeping members of our community alive. As Schulman says, “In 2001 we founded the ACT UP Oral History Project because there was a complete void of knowledge and information about how AIDS activism had transformed AIDS and this nation’s attitudes about homosexuality, patients’ rights and federal control of treatment. For the past ten years we have not only created a database of interviews with 128 surviving members of ACT UP, but have persevered almost 2000 hours of archival footage. By literally traveling around the country for a decade, bringing this material to communities, universities, media and curriculum, we created a renewed interest in this period and provided the raw materials so that other people could interpret it. Now, as a result of all that work, and two subsequent shows of the Oral History Project materials (one at Harvard and one at White Columns Gallery in New York) it seems as though “the time is right.” But we agitated to create that “time” as well as the documentary film that can address all the interest that our work provoked. That is real hands-on cultural activism”.
The film should appeal to all audiences and gives a full background about AIDS and activism and as I watched I was stunned about how much I don’t know and should know. AIDS is not just a disease; it still is and was a political crisis.
“The film takes the viewer through the planning and execution of a half dozen exhilarating major actions including Seize Control of the FDA, Stop the Church, and Day of Desperation, with a timeline of many of the other zaps and actions that forced the U.S. government and mainstream media to deal with the AIDS crisis. UNITED IN ANGER reveals the group’s complex culture – meetings, affinity groups, and approaches to civil disobedience mingle with profound grief, sexiness, and the incredible energy of ACT UP”.
Everyone needs to see this film and in doing so we become so much more aware at what was not just the turning point in our history but in the history of the world in itself. I find that many times while talking about gay life, for example, I find myself designating something as either before AIDS or after AIDS (in the interest of brevity). I certainly hope that one day we will see that period that is named “After AIDS” and that that day comes very soon.