Today is World AIDS Day, a designated and globally observed occasion to promote awareness about HIV infection and the AIDS epidemic. There are plenty of things you can actively do, including spreading the word about important documentaries focused on the issue. While there have been plenty made on the topic, two very significant new films have been on the festival circuit this year and have now been made available for special public screenings today: "The Carrier" and "We Were Here."
Margaret Betts' "The Carrier," which was named Best Documentary at the 2011 Lone Star Film Festival and was more recently selected as part of the IDA's DocuWeeks showcase, can be seen by anyone in the U.S. today via the "online movie theater," Constellation. A a quietly devastating and necessarily slow-moving film, "The Carrier" follows a polygamous family in Zambia in which the husband and his three wives are all HIV-positive. Mainly Betts focuses on the second wife, Mutinta, and her latest, unintended pregnancy and keeps the audience distressingly in suspense about whether or not the baby will be born infected as well. Mutinta gives birth a little more than halfway through the film, and we don't find out the answer until the end.
Sometimes we're really strung along and teased about the test results coming, only to have to wait and wait. This can narratively seem manipulative yet it also puts us as close as possible to experiencing the anticipation and worry that Mutinta and her family went through — if we become frustrated, fine, since they also display annoyance with the wait. The film also secures our already certain sorrowfulness by laying the sad piano and sad violin on heavily and consistently, though in a rare circumstance this sort of score is not a problem. "The Carrier" is a single story involving the African AIDS crisis, but sadly it's likely representative of many cases.
You can see tune into this film at 7:30pm or 10:00pm, both EST. The price to watch one of these streaming screenings is $4.99, and proceeds will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria via (RED). Even if you don't like the film itself, that's a very worthy cause. Betts is hosting both shows and will be participate in a Q&A after each one.
As for David Weissman and Bill Weber's "We Were Here," a film about the early years of AIDS in San Francisco that just crushed me at the Miami International Film Festival this year, theatrical screenings have been set up around the world today to commemorate the occasion. You can see the doc tonight if you're in any of the following U.S. cities: Cincinnati, Honolulu, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Tulsa and College Station, Texas (home of Texas A&M University), as well as in Florence, Italy, and Auckland, New Zealand. Unrelated, the doc is currently playing in London and opens tomorrow in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. (Keep tabs on screenings of the film here).
This film has been shortlisted for the Oscar, and I've predicted/suggested it for an actual nomination. It was also just nominated for a Spirit Award. Here's what I wrote back in March:
Basic and conventional isn't always bad, though, as I saw with the tearjerking San Franciso AIDS history, 'We Were Here' a doc that gets a lot of mileage out of its dependency and focus on a handful of talking heads, proving that onscreen interviews aren't in fact as antiquated and stale as we sometimes think they are.
Just as "The Carrier" is necessarily slow, "We Were Here" is necessarily simple. It's one of the best docs of the year, and worth a bit of a drive if you're relatively near those listed locations holding screenings tonight. Here's the trailer: