MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sundance Selects
Directed by David Franco. Documentary.
“And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’” – Matthew 25:38-39 (NRSV)
In Jesus’ story of the judgment of the nations, the king commends the righteous for their compassion for those in need, especially in the ways that love was willing to take time to care for others when help was needed. The love of God at work in our lives has a way of disrupting our daily routines so that we can pay attention to those in need of help. In this process, we see Jesus Christ in others.
When the AIDS epidemic began in the early 1980s, ignorance and fear of this deadly disease soon created a chasm between those suffering from HIV-AIDS and the general public. The Center for Disease Control at one time labeled this condition the 4H disease, since sufferers mostly seemed to be Haitians, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and heroin users. Physical contact was considered risky. A cure for this disease seemed to be nowhere in sight.
Since the gay and lesbian community soon found itself ostracized and demonized, gay activists formed a grassroots organization in 1987 – The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power – or ACT UP. Led by playwright Larry Kramer and others, the group sought to influence government agencies and pharmaceutical companies to speed up drug trials and research to find a cure. Soon they had a recognizable logo: Silence=Death printed below a pink triangle on a field of black.
How to Survive a Plague is an Oscar-nominated documentary about the history of Act Up, using an incredible amount of archival film and video to tell its story. We see the prejudice and hatred that pushed back against the activists, but also the love and passion that kept the group going. The film is honest enough to show us how the uphill climb brought on fatigue and strife, leading to divisions within the group.
The film is most inspiring in showing us changed hearts and minds that developed over time, as well as the discovery of treatments that would eventually have a Lazarus effect over HIV-AIDS positive persons, reversing the ravages of the illness.
There is still no cure for HIV-AIDS, but we have learned much over 25 years of time. We know now that the scourge of AIDS touches all parts of society, that the illness is not passed by handshakes or hugs, and that the church needs to be engaged in acts of kindness to all persons. Pay close attention to the absence of Christians in this documentary. We have taken too long to care but, thanks be to God, there’s hope for us, as well.
Four halos: An inspiring film about compassion and courage against overwhelming odds.
Three pitchforks: Pervasive strong language, prejudice, scenes of human suffering.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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