Reel Affirmations 2003
Review by Kristina Campbell
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Sunday, 10/19/2003, 6:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Cecile Goldman Theater at the DCJCC
IF YOU WANT to see and feel the agony and the energy, the enthusiasm and the heartbreak of AIDS street activism starting in the late 1980s and spanning through late 2002, this documentary of the direct action group ACT UP is a great way to spend 75 minutes. But if you want to know how all of those protests and sit-ins and political funerals fit into the larger context, who’s talking and who’s shouting in any given piece of footage, or who’s getting arrested and what happened to them later, Fight Back, Fight AIDS stirs up more questions than it answers.
The end product is a terrific video scrapbook for anyone who took part in or closely watched ACT UP’s activities over the years — and a great place to people-watch and see what year’s old video footage you might catch of your favorite AIDS activist. For those who weren’t part of the movement while all that acting up was happening, this film is an exciting inside look at how a movement grew and got noticed amid a raging health crisis.
Overall, the documentary loses power by not providing narration or adequate text to identify people and places, and suffers from an egregious lack of editing. While the jostled camera effect and the occasional extended focus on people’s feet and pavement really give us an idea of what it was like to be in the middle of one of those politically charged demonstrations, there’s far too much of it, and some of the footage is downright extraneous.
Still, this is an important historical film and shouldn’t be missed, even if audience members find themselves wishing at times that they had access to a fast-forward button during the viewing.