Through a stack of personal journals, this video reconstructs a biography of the South Dakota-born, New York City-enlightened artist James Wentzy. Tracing his days starting out as a struggling artist and later involved as an AIDS activist, the video provides an intimate portrait of a neglected hero. Wentzy reads from journals and shares old family snapshots and notebook sketches. “I hope I don’t die of sainthood,” Wentzy jokes in an entry from 1990—the pivotal time when he was becoming involved with ACT-UP and beginning to live healthier after the revelation of his HIV-positive status.
Produced for Britain’s Channel 4, Bright Eyes is an impressive and complex essay detailing the various factors that have colluded to misrepresent the true nature of the threat posed by AIDS. Exposing the relationship between the mass media, scientific systems of classification, and definitions of pathology, Marshall pinpoints the construction of sexual politics based on a reactionary morality. The video places the AIDS crisis in the context of the historical persecution of homosexuals and focuses on the efforts of gay activist groups to combat social and medical prejudice.
This video is a moving personal documentary about Danny, a friend of Kybartas who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1986. This powerful work explores the reason for Danny’s return home and his attempts to reconcile his relationship with his family members who had difficulty facing his homosexuality and his imminent death. Retracing Danny’s memory of his once-high lifestyle in the clubs and gyms of Miami, Danny avoids sentimentalizing its subject as it juxtaposes images, text, and voice-over to build a sense of the psychological struggle brought on by Danny’s impending, premature death.
This video collects public service announcements created by a number of independent producers, including Jem Cohen and Michael Stipe of R.E.M. Powerful and provocative, these PSAs address issues such as organic farming, abortion rights, street harassment, and the environment. Included are:
They Have Dreams by Natalie Merchant and Abigail Simon which focuses on the plight of homeless children.
The third compilation in this series of progressive, creative public service announcements for under-reported issues. Featuring various styles and formats, from street photography to optical printing, from edgy black and white film to hand-drawn animation, the seven spots in this latest installment are:
The Breathing Tree by Eric Darnell and Doug Loveid, an animated easy-to-understand explanation of how forests contribute to life by producing oxygen.
In the spring of 1988, video-maker/activist Gregg Bordowitz tested HIV-antibody positive. He then quit drinking and taking drugs and came out to his parents as a gay man. This imaginative autobiographical documentary began as an inquiry into these events and the cultural climate surrounding them. While writing the film, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and his grandparents were killed in a car accident. The cumulative impact of these events challenged his sense of identity, the way he understood his own diagnosis, and the relationships between Illness and history.
Fighting Chance is a continuation of Richard Fung’s previous documentary Orientations, which told of the personal challenges and struggles of Asian-Canadian gays and lesbians to express their sexual identities. When Fung produced Orientations in 1984, AIDS had not yet fully manifested itself (particularly among Asians), but by 1991, as we see in Fighting Chance, the epidemic has become threateningly widespread. Individuals and couples candidly discuss the various hurdles and challenges that AIDS has presented.
Habit is an autobiographical documentary that follows the current history of the AIDS epidemic along dual trajectories: the efforts of South Africa’s leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, struggling to gain access to AIDS drugs and the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran AIDS activist in the U.S. who has been living with AIDS for more than ten years.
Modesty, whimsy, and clarity of design grace the work of Joe Brainard (1941-1994), an artist and writer whose evocations of memory and desire perhaps found their greatest expression in his memoir-poem I Remember.
(In) Visible Women shows the heroic responses of three women with AIDS in the context of their respective communities. In the face of adversity, these women confront all aspects of the AIDS crisis in their lives. Through poetry, art, activism, and dance, they explode notions of female invisibility and complacency in the face of AIDS. We hear each woman describe how she came to terms with being HIV+ and joined others in speaking out about the neglected needs of women.
This experimental video breaks many the silences surrounding lesbians and AIDS. Interweaving the voices of two friends—an HIV+ Latina lesbian and an HIV- Jewish lesbian—the video juxtaposes two very different yet overlapping experiences. The piece points to the often unspoken tensions occurring within this epidemic—survival and power, mourning and loss.
A video in two parts ("Starstruck" and " MGM: Movie Goddess Machine"), focusing on celebrity culture, identity, and the body. “What is Liz Taylor doing in my bed, in the bed of my friend Leland, as he dies of AIDS?” These and related questions are enacted in a series of encounters between the artist/ performer/spectator and a host of famous people from la Liz to Anita Hill. In Joan Sees Stars, Braderman addresses the subversive potential of masquerade in a parade of video-assisted star sightings.
I arranged a visit to poet/novelist Kevin Killian’s South of Market apartment in San Francisco to shoot a portrait of him, and when I arrived he had a guest, poet Cedar Sigo. They had corresponded earlier, but were meeting for the first time, and Cedar agreed to participate in our video shoot. This is perhaps the least planned, most verité and documentary of the videos about writers so far. Our immediate plan was for Kevin to read one of Cedar’s poems and for Cedar to read one by Kevin.