“The Cockettes” co-directors David Weissman and Bill Weber again point their lens at San Francisco with their incredibly powerful doc “We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco.” The “we” of the title are the five main interview subjects featured – Ed wolf, Paul Boneberg, Daniel Goldstein, Guy Clark and Eileen Glutzer. While their stories are deeply personal, they resonate in the most universal of ways.
The documentary begins with the story of how each interviewee arrived in San Francisco’s Castro district in the 1970s, when it was the epicenter of gay liberation. But the thrill was short-lived for florist Guy, nurse Eileen, artist David and political activists Paul and Ed. First came the 1978 assassination of Harvey milk. Then, in June of 1981, came the news that about 20 percent of the Castro’s gay male population was infected with the virus that would later be identified as HIV.
What follows is a portrait of those heart-wrenching years of sudden loss, terror, sorrow, confusion, rage, politics and redemption. The period video and still photographs capture the essence of the AIDS epidemic’s early days and underscore how far we’ve come since then. “We Were Here” is a profoundly moving film. DVD bonus features include interviews with the filmmakers and a series of PSAs about HIV from the mid-1990s.
Directed by gay filmmaker Morgan Jon Fox (“Blue Citrus Hearts”), “This is what Love in Action Looks Like” is a scathing exposé of Christian ex-gay ministries that attests to the power of social media.
The doc begins in 2005, when Zach Stark’s fundamentalist Christian parents sent the 16-year-old to Love in Action’s ex-gay youth camp to get the gay out of him. Zach’s blog about the situation went viral, resulting in protests at Love in Action’s Memphis, Tenn., headquarters. Diane Sawyer, Paula Zahn, Montel Williams and other national media figures covered the story.
Fox formats the film to look like a social media site. He presents both sides of the story, including the Christian
Broadcasting Network’s coverage and interviews with LIA’s former executive director John Smid (who came out – again – in October 2011, after the film was released and finally admitted that changing one’s sexual orientation is impossible). Fox even includes footage of Exodus international’s Alan Chambers, who speaks in the calm, reassuring tone of a cult leader.
The film also captures revealing interviews with former LIA clients, including playwright Peterson Toscano, Memphis Flyer writer Chris Davis and protest organizer Janessa Williams. The film’s happy ending shows Zach as a well-adjusted gay college student in 2010.
DVD special features include Morgan Jon Fox’s surprise marriage proposal to his partner at the Memphis premiere of the film.