Gay movie festival highlights gays’ struggles, writes Arja Salafranca
When Axun and Maite recognise each other as childhood friends, a touching, strong re-connection follows. Maite soon takes Axun out for the day to an island, memories are rekindled, a childhood attraction comes to the fore – but it’s more than Axun can take. Uncomfortable feelings have been stirred up, and Axun remains ill at ease with the notion of lesbianism. Still, the burgeoning relationship continues – and when Maite reaches out when Axun comes to supper, the resulting scenes are inevitable.
Other issues come to the fore in the home of New Zealander Pip and South African Lee as they debate the benefits of leaving this country to bring up their children in a place where one daughter has already experience racism from a white New Zealand child. Single mother Paula talks openly about being a recovering addict and lavishes love on her adopted son. An engaging positive portrait of gay adoption emerges in Waited For.
We Were Here travels back to the 1980s and is an absorbing, eye-opening look at the impact of Aids on gays and lesbians in San Francisco’s gay district, The Castro.
Interviews with those who were there are interwoven with archive footage. In the 1970s The Castro was the place to be for America’s gay community, a safe haven of acceptance as gay rights took off, and gays took their place in the sun. But by the end of that decade and the early years of the 80s, menace arrived in the form of a strange “gay disease” in which sufferers wasted away, deformed by Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.
Five Castro residents who were there tell their stories – stories of watching loved ones fall ill and die, all helpless in the face of this plague. Eileen Glutzer, a lesbian nurse who helped to administer many of the Aids trial drugs, is the only woman to be interviewed. Others are HIV-positive artist Daniel Goldstein, who lost two lovers to Aids, and speaks movingly of these losses, gay flower seller Guy Clark, Paul Boneberg and Ed Wolf. Ordinary men and women who lived through an extraordinary time.
With the advent of antiretroviral medication and the public surge of support for Aids sufferers which is more prevalent today, it’s hard to recall a time when Aids sufferers were treated like lepers through sheer ignorance. There was literally no hope, just palliative care as one by one friends and lovers died, the plague decimating a significant proportion of San Francisco’s gay community.
*This is the second season of Out in Africa, showing in Cape Town and Johannesburg. Other documentaries being shown include Lauren Beukes’s Glitter Boys and Ganglands, a peek behind the drag curtain. Other feature films included are Children of God, directed by Kareem j Mortimer, set in the heart of the Christian Bahamas, while Man at Bath (Homme au bain) is described as no-holds barred French film by Christophe Honore. See www.oia.co.za for the full line-up.
(Published in The Sunday Independent, August 14 2011)