The 80s were a fabulous decade for me. I was in high school and college the entire decade. I went to a lot of good parties, saw a lot of good bands, and read a lot of good books. The 80s were "Amadeus" and Ghostbusters", REM and The Style Council, peach wine coolers, Reagan and Thatcher, big hair, bringing about the end of Aparteid and the beginning of AIDS.
Columbia, Missouri is a city that has around 100,000 people and one independent movie house, The Ragtag Cinema. The braintrust behind Ragtag are also the co-conspirators behind Columbia's documentary film festival, True/False.
This year at True/False, we saw "How To Survive A Plague", directed by David France. It is a documentary about the AIDS epidemic and the group ACT UP. My high school age daughter went with me.
The film follows the explosion of the AIDS epidemic and some key members of ACT UP as they fight for recognition, equal medical treatment, research, effective drug therapies, and hopefully a cure.
The 80s were the beginning of the video age, so there is a lot of footage of meetings, protests, families and friends. My daughter held my hand and cried through most of the film. The reason? She had no idea that people died such horrific deaths from AIDS. In her lifetime HIV is a chronic disease, an illness, that if untreated will kill you, like diabetes or heart disease.
She had no idea of the hysteria and misinformation that abounded during that time. How you weren't supposed to kiss gay people or use the same utensils or the same bathroom, because you might get "The AIDS". She didn't realize that no one knew what caused HIV and AIDS, no one knew how to treat it, and frankly, as long as it was only affecting gay men, it was incredibly low on The Powers That Be's list of research importance. She didn't know that at that time HIV/AIDS equaled death. And a majority of her peers are as uninformed as she was.
I was lucky. None of my friends were effected. The same cannot be said for the many who watched their friends and loved ones die due to indifference, delay, and bigotry. I recently read somewhere that unprotected sex among young gay men is on the rise. They need to be informed and protect themselves.
"How To Survive A Plague" has finally wrapped up the festival circuit and will be released in September 2012. It will probably only show in art houses and independent movie theaters. When you go, take a high schooler or 20-something with you. They need to see it.
We cannot be allowed to forget.