“BUDDIES”— A Gay Classic Restored— The First Film About AIDS


A Gay Classic Restored— The First Film About AIDS

Amos Lassen

“Buddies” has finally been released on DVD/Blu ray and as the first film about AIDS, it deserves a special place in the LGBT cinema canon. It looks at friendship and love and what was known about AIDS when it was released in 1985 (which was early on in the pandemic).

 The plot is relatively simple. A gay man, David, who is in a happy monogamous relationship, becomes a buddy to another gay man, Robert, who is dying from AIDS. As they get to know each other, they become closer and closer. The film was written and directed by Arthur Bressan, Jr. who was himself an AIDS victim and died soon after.

David (David Schachter), a naive graduate student, has volunteered to work as a ‘buddy’ for people dying of AIDS. He is assigned to the intensely political Robert (Geoff Edholm), a lifelong activist whose friends and family have abandoned him following his diagnosis. The two men, each with notably different world views, soon discover common bonds, as David’s inner activist awakens and Robert’s need for emotional release is fulfilled. Independent filmmaker Bressan Jr.’s “Buddies” is an intensely personal study of love, death, and the need for activism during the earliest years of the AIDS crisis.

 This is a movie that will make you weep and tear you up and for many this film was how they learned about AIDS. With excellent acting and a literate script, the film is a must-see. The climax is shattering and it is almost impossible to see this film without crying. It is powerful and depressing yet it is also uplifting. The film brings the viewer to the situation that gay men were coming to terms with as we see how people are forced to look at their prejudices. Watching it, you will probably be shocked to see how those who had AIDS were treated.

David begins to see Robert’s politics and he becomes aware that his community is being killed off. Bressan wrote this film in five days and then shot it in nine and the film comes across as being extremely personal. He tried to bring public attention to the epidemic but the movie became his swan song and his legacy.

This was Bressan’s last film and he was lost to AIDS just two years after finishing filming. For the longest time it was almost impossible to see “Buddies”. It had a brief theatrical release but was never officially released on home video. I am lucky enough to have a copy of it that was taped during one of is few cable television showings. Now, come July, 2018 during ‘ “Buddies” is finally making its home video debut. It has newly restored from its long lost 16mm negative, courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome and available in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack with special features that include interviews with co-star David Schachter and film historian Thomas Waugh original trailer, production photos and articles.

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