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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #18: Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman Fight for HIV Awareness in 'The Battle of amfAR'

By Indiewire | Indiewire April 10, 2013 at 10:41AM

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's career together began with their first documentary feature "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt," winning the Documentary Feature Oscar in 1990. Since then they have hardly faltered with the release of multiple award winners such as "The Celluloid Closet" and "Paragraph 175." Now fresh off the Sundance premiere of their dramatic feature "Lovelace," starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard and Sharon Stone, they return to their documentary roots.
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Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's career together began with their first documentary feature "Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt," winning the Documentary Feature Oscar in 1990. Since then they have hardly faltered with the release of multiple award winners such as "The Celluloid Closet" and "Paragraph 175." Now fresh off the Sundance premiere of their dramatic feature "Lovelace," starring Amanda Seyfried, Peter Sarsgaard and Sharon Stone, they return to their documentary roots.

What it's about: When a mysterious new disease started killing gay men in the early 1980s, two women from very different backgrounds responded. Hollywood icon Elizabeth Taylor and research scientist Mathilde Krim together started the first national AIDS research foundation, amfAR, and changed the course of the epidemic, helping to bring us now to the brink of finding a cure.

What else should audiences know: Our approach was to reconstruct the history of the early years of the crisis through the twin lenses of scientific research - which seemed like a story that hadn't yet been told - and through the early activism of two powerhouse women.

What was your biggest challenge in developing this project: 

As always, funding. In the end, a handful of generous individuals made the film possible.

What they hope audiences will walk away with: We want to remind people that the epidemic is still with us, although, as Woody Allen remarks in the film, awareness of the disease has diminished, even within the gay community. We also want people to know about the contributions of two unlikely heroes in the history of the AIDS/HIV movement. The biggest news, though, is that for the first time scientists are talking optimistically not just about managing the disease, but about an actual cure. This is a huge shift in thinking that most people seem not to be aware of.

"The Battle of amfAR"
"The Battle of amfAR"

On films that inspired them: Can't think of any specific films, but more of a sensibility; it was important that we found humor in the subject. Just having Woody Allen make a brief appearance in the film was a reminder of the necessity of humor.

What's next: Developing a documentary on the history of the Oscars, and two scripted narrative features, one on the life of Anita Bryant, and one based on the novel You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik.

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.





Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: Tribeca Film Festival, Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers