Sunday, December 1, 2013

We Were Here (2011)

WHO: David Weissman and Bill Weber co-directed this.

WHAT: Though released a year beforehand, We Were Here makes an ideal compliment to David France's 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How To Survive A Plague. The latter is comprised almost entirely of archival video footage of East Coast AIDS activists, the overwhelming majority of them white, male, and connected to ACT UP New York. It's a film filled with inspiring anger, caustic wit, ferocious energy, and quite a bit of rousing chanting. We Were Here includes some archival footage (the above screen shot is from one ACT UP moment on Castro Street) but is on the whole far more calm and even contemplative. It relies almost exclusively on sit-down interviews and still photographs, and focuses on San Francisco rather than New York and Washington, but takes a broader historical look at the history of AIDS from its mysterious and alarming beginnings, includes more oral histories of women and people of color, and gives at least as much attention to the role of caregivers and support networks as to activists in the the fight against the disease's ravages. That at least two excellent documentaries of such disparate styles and approaches have been made on the topic in the last few years is a sign that the subject of the AIDS crisis is likely to yield a wide range of more valuable films to come.

WHERE/WHEN: Today only at the Castro at 7PM.

WHY: Today is World AIDS Day. A good day to hold in mind the many filmmakers the world has lost to the disease (a partial list here) and wonder what beautiful works might have been created were they still with us. The Castro observes the day with a special screening of We Were Here at which Weissman (who also produced the film) and some of the cast will be present to answer questions afterward.

It's also the first day of December and a new calendar for the theatre, which aside from the glimpse in the above image is also mentioned by one of the We Were Here interviewees, who recalls first learning about the "gay cancer" on his way to a double-bill of Golden Age classics Casablanca and Now, Voyager. Neither of those films are on the December docket, but quite a few Hollywood Studio-System era films of the sort that have grown somewhat scarce within the Castro walls make appearances: To Catch A Thief, Dial 'M' For MurderIt's A Wonderful Life, The Wizard of OzSome Like It Hot and Singin' in the Rain screen via the new-fangled DCP technology, while Blast of Silence, Christmas EveThe Fortune Cookie, A Night at the Opera and Duck Soup will show on 35mm prints just as they would have on their original releases or as revivals during the 1980s. The month's sole foreign-language offering is the 1946 French classic Children Of Paradise (not Phantom of the Paradise as I was led to believe earlier) and it will screen from a DCP.

Films made in 1968, 1977, the mid-eighties, early-nineties and beyond each get their own 35mm double-bills sometime during the month: The Tbomas Crown Affair and Bullitt December 21st, Eraserhead and Killer of Sheep on the 13th, Gremlins and Lethal Weapon (both Christmas-related actually) on the 19th, True Romance and Pulp Fiction on the 27th, and the MiDNiTES FOR MANiACS pairing of Home For The Holidays and Love Actually on the 20th of the month. More recent fare includes the documentary on the John Waters collaborator I Am Divine (for which David Weissman is thanked in the credits- perhaps related to the fact that he and Weber's prior film before We Were Here was The Cockettes) December 9th, 3D showings of Gravity on the 10th and 11th, and (in a preview of early 2014) Blue Jasmine January 2nd.

December has more than the usual number of days in which the Castro will be used for something other than motion pictures, but of particular interest is a December 16th Holiday Benefit Concert intended to help raise money to prevent the theatre from losing its Wurlitzer organ. There's also the traditional Christmas Eve Gay Men's Chorus concert of course, which recalls that you've always wanted to sing along to a movie at the Castro, you have several chances over the coming week, including this afternoon. I'm more interested in finally attending another audience-participation screening event; Every year I've had to work during Rick Prelinger's Lost Landscapes of San Francisco programs of local home-movie and other "ephemeral" footage accompanied by the sounds of audience members calling out questions and comments about the Frisco Bay history unfolding before them on the screen. This year I have the night off and wouldn't you know it the event is sold out already. Look for me in the walk-up line for unclaimed tickets with my fingers crossed.

HOW: Digital production and presentation.

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