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We Were Here

An affecting documentary about how AIDS forged a community in the early 1980s

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The earliest days of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco are the focus of this sobering but uplifting doc from David Weissman and Bill Weber. In contemporary interviews, intercut with archival material, survivors explain how they turned into care-givers, nurses and activists. That's tough work at any time, but it was especially difficult during the onset of AIDS, when the then-nearly-always-fatal virus was still known by misnomers such as "gay cancer." Patients were shunned, even within the hospital system; public discrimination was rampant; and the strength to rally against a devastating disease that took friends and lovers within months seems unimaginable. 

It was a terrifying, heartbreaking time, which decades later still seems unreal, even to those of us who lived through it. Yet from the horror, grief and anger, a powerful social and political community was forged. History tends to remember only the broad strokes, and a film like We Were Here reminds us that it's the many small, individual actions that create change and comprise community. It's the volunteer hospice buddy; the AIDS patient who spoke out; the nurse who stayed late, sitting with the dying man; or the local newspaper that published the shocking roll call of the dead. Screens as part of a mini-series of 2011 documentaries shortlisted for the 2012 Oscars.

Mon., Jan. 9, through Thu., Jan.12. Harris

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