United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is a unique feature-length documentary that combines startling archival footage that puts the audience on the ground with the activists and the remarkably insightful interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project to explore ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) from a grassroots perspective – how a small group of men and women of all races and classes, came together to change the world and save each other’s lives.
Tag Archives: AIDS
Tomorrow night at the MOMA, KTLO contributor Jim Hubbard will open the annual Documentary Fortnight series with his exciting new documentary United In Anger. Perfectly timed for last year’s 30th anniversary of AIDS, and this year’s 25th anniversary of ACT UP, the film tells the story of the legendary activist group who fought tirelessly to change government definitions of AIDS, force scientists and the government to excel their development of life-saving drugs, and change the public perception of AIDS from a gay-disease to one that affected us all. The film examines the nuts and bolts of what made ACT UP’s successes and failures come to pass, with a special attention paid to the culture and camaraderie behind the scenes as well as the role of women in the group. I spoke to Hubbard last night about creating the film, the connections between ACT UP and Occupy Wall Street, and whether New York would be ready for another AIDS crisis.
Adam: Hi Jim, are you excited for the premiere?
Jim: Yeah. It’s started to keep me up night.
I know you were a member of ACT UP, both a longtime activist and longtime documenter of the movement, but how did this film come together?
It either took me 25 years, 10 years, or 3 years depending on how you count. I started filming ACT UP in June of 1987 at the Gay Pride March. I continued to film ACT UP for years afterward and make films about it. Elegy in the Street would be the most prominent of the films. But I was shooting 16mm and processing the footage myself, so I stood in contrast to all the people videotaping it, many of whom made dozens of tapes about ACT UP in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Then in 1995, at the behest of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS I convinced 30 or 40 AIDS activist videomakers to donate work to the New York Public Library, for the resources there. And then ten years ago when Sarah Schulman and I started the ACT UP Oral History Project, I always had it in my mind that I would make a film based on the project, and I started seriously editing what became United In Anger, about three years ago. More…
I met Chloe Dzubilo for the first time at Blacklips Performance Cult at Pyramid Club the night they staged her play “Vagina.” I found it to be a hilarious, mystical and transformative piece, beautiful and transgressive all at once. Chloe herself was beautiful and transgressive, mystical and hilarious. We became famous friends in blue walled dingy basements, in various apartments, parks and diners. Once, at brunch, really early in our friendship I witnessed a healing between Chloe and her father. She shared that intimate moment with me and she cried. I felt like I’d found a sister. I would call her when I was freaking out; with compassion and humor, she would talk me through.
I photographed Chloe a lot. With her band, with lovers, with friends who looked like her, with her dog, alone, nude, clothed, with writing on her body: “precious diva” “family” “love tummy.” When I finally decided to make a film, she had to be in it. It was a girl gang movie, Gang Girls 2000 Betsy came up with the gang name, Blades, which I elaborated to the Famous Blades of Chinatown, prompted by the freely given use of Chloe’s Chinatown apartment as the gang headquarters. Chloe was to play the leader of the gang. I said, “What should your gang name be?” She didn’t hesitate. “Transella Coutorture,” she replied. More…
The meatrack is a small forest tucked behind the beach and sand dunes of Fire Island. It bridges the gay and queer summer communities of The Pines and Cherry Grove. It is where people go to meet, have sex and make art. It is a place where dry bones breathe.
The first time I went through the meatrack I followed the sunburned neck of pioneering contemporary artist AA Bronson. I was working as his assistant; accompanying him and artist Ryan Brewer as they scouted locations for an art project they were doing involving rituals, and the use of a long black, Victorian Comme Des Garcons skirt AA had recently acquired.
As I kept on eye on AA’s long white luminescent beard, I struggled to take in everything. I had been hearing about Fire Island my whole gay life – the adventures of Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Christopher Isherwood, as well as how, according to Larry Kramer, the island and it’s hedonistic vibe was the sign of the gay man’s demise. It was heady to be walking on the shifting ground, moved by the intense weight of emotions washing over me. As soon as I stepped into the rack I felt very unalone. More…
It’s been 16 years since the documentary version of The Celluloid Closet, activist Vito Russo’s landmark book about gay representation in film, was released in theaters. Vito spent nearly his whole life watching films, screening them for others and helping to explain how film perpetuated stereotypes about gay and lesbian people in film. Tonight, Vito returns to theaters as the star of the film, rather than a spectator. Jeffrey Schwartz’s eagerly-anticipated documentary Vito, which explores Vito’s life as a cinephile activist as well as an important AIDS activist will screen at 6PM and 9:15PM at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the New York Film Festival. The screening is sold out, but there are rush tickets available for both screenings. The film features interviews with Lily Tomlin, Armisteaud Maupin, and many of Vito’s closest friends and colleagues. Don’t miss it.
A mountain of 175 pounds of candies “individually wrapped in variously colored cellophane” piled up in the corner of a gallery. The candy is unguarded, so the viewer is encouraged to take some. Each and every day, the remaining candy is weighed and more is added until the pile goes back to the same 175 pounds. This is Untitled (Ross), one of the most poignant works by Felix Gonzales-Torres, the Cuban American artist who lived and worked in NYC in the ’80s and early ’90s. This beautiful installation underscores the process as an intrinsic part of the art piece, which is constantly being re-created, and never finished.
175 pounds corresponds to the “ideal” weight that a doctor established for his patient Ross Laycock, the artist’s partner, when he was diagnosed with AIDS in the mid-80’s. Gonzales-Torres was once asked who his ideal audience was, and he answered without skipping a beat; “My audience is Ross.” Ross died in ’91. The diminishing amount of candy parallels Ross’ suffering and weight loss prior to his death, but the replenishment stipulated by the artist metaphorically grants him eternal life. More…
Over the past few years Dan Fishback has made a name for himself as one of the most talented young writers and performance artists in New York. When reviewing Fishback’s 2009 play You Will Experience Silence, the Village Voice wrote that he displayed a “[Tony] Kushnerian sense for the complexities of historical memory,” even though Fishback’s piece was “sassier and more fun” than Angels in America. But at the same time that Fishback was experiencing success, an illness was in the process of changing his life drastically. Now Fishback is hard at work on a new show, titled thirtynothing, which will premiere at the end of September and run through October 22nd at Dixon Place. thirtynothing tells the story of Fishback’s quest to learn about unknown queer artists who who were lost to the AIDS epidemic – and how doing so changed his life for the better. Fishback has launched a fundraising campaign on Indie Gogo – which ends tomorrow, and is throwing a benefit tonight at Dixon Place featuring performances by future downtown legends like Molly Pope, Kim Smith, Max Steele, Max Vernon and The Lisps. I called Fishback at home on Sunday night to talk about his show, his health, and what it feels like to turn share a birth year with the most devastating plague in history.
Adam Baran: Why did you decide to call your show thirtynothing?
Dan Fishback: I turn 30 as soon as this production is over. I’ve been looking forward to it for the past five years. When I was 25, I was in this arts fellowship and was the only person in their twenties. Most of the others were in their mid-thirties. So when I would complain about boys or whatever my problem was they would all just yell at me, “Dan, these problems aren’t real problems and as soon as you hit 30, you will see that everything that’s bothering you right now is really stupid and changeable and everything’s just fine. You’ll gain this cosmic wisdom and everything will just be easier.” I believed them so intensely that for the last five years, I’ve just been, like, killing time.
As someone in his 30s, now for about six months, I don’t know if I’ve gotten this newfound wisdom. Problems are problems are problems. Of course, they’re not going to go away when you turn 30. But I’m with you. Just waiting.
Yeah, waiting for the cosmic wisdom of age to descend upon you.
What about your Saturn’s return? That was another thing I didn’t experience.
Really? My Saturn return was fucking intense. It’s still going on. More…