“The HIV Story Project” is an ambitious project indeed. The series of short films profile the many faces of those living with HIV/AIDS in the San Francisco Bay Area.
2011 will mark the 30th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and by next year, Bay Area filmmakers Jorg Fockele and Marc Smolowitz will have led a team of local filmmakers in creating and compiling a feature-length collection of these films.
The first eight of “The HIV Story Project”films premiered at the Frameline LGBT Film Festival in June, and this sneak preview of the finished project reflects the variety and diversity of its subjects.
The most entertaining entry is the music video “My Heart,” that features singer/dancer Phoenix Normand and is directed by Billy Clift. Set at a cruise-y nightclub (San Francisco’s End Up), the video makes only oblique references to HIV; some of the patrons have tell-tale pluses on their wrists.
Other films are more overtly related to the epidemic, the most compelling of which feature the subjects merely sharing their experiences. Richard is a long-time Castro optometrist who shares compelling memories of San Francisco during the height of the AIDS crisis.
Sylvia and Elaine are two women, both straight, both mothers, who reveal the impact that their HIV has had on their lives. Ali is a salt-of-the-earth social worker at San Francisco General Hospital’s Ward 86, which has been the City’s primary HIV/AIDS ward since the epidemic began.
“Paws” tells the story of how a pet dog keeps hope alive for a man named Richard, and “Ritual” depicts a modern-day version of a Native American ritual as a young man honors his HIV conversion by being lifted through hooks in his flesh. It’s not for all audiences, especially the squeamish.
But while every film in the series may not appeal to everyone, “The HIV Story Project” does promise to shed light on the myriad ways that HIV/AIDS has impacted those who live with the disease, and those who love them.
More information on “The HIV Story Project” can be found at: http://thehivstoryproject.org