Hollywood’s most glamorous movie star joining forces with a passionate female doctor to fight the world’s most terrifying disease sounds like the plot of a potboiler you’d read on a cross-country flight but it’s the true story depicted in the enlightening documentary The Battle of amfAR.
Co-directed by out filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet), the doc revisits the time in the mid-’80s when Elizabeth Taylor and research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim, who’d been studying unusual cases of cancer involving gay men, heeded a much-needed call to arms and decided to combine their energy and voices to create amfAR (American Foundation forAIDS Research), America’s first AIDS research foundation.
Rest assured that this isn’t another stuffy history lesson, because the forever-candid Taylor could always be counted on to keep things real. “I was made so aware of this loud silence regarding AIDS that I finally thought to myself, Bitch, do something yourself!” she remarks about her decision to become an advocate for AIDS/HIV awareness. The work of Taylor and Krim changed the course of the battle against this deadly disease, of which many younger members of the LGBT communities seem unaware.
The filmmakers spoke with Queerty earlier this year and noted that young people have approached them after screenings of the film to say they hadn’t been aware of how terrifying the AIDS had been during the early years of the epidemic and that some remain ignorant of the facts that the disease is still infectious and can be deadly.
“We see the statistics,” Friedman said. “Young people are being infected at alarming rates. I think we have had young gay people at screenings come up to us afterwards and say they didn’t really understand what it was like back then when we were in the thick of it.”
Epstein believe there needs to be a resurgence of information outreach. “We’re at a different juncture in regards to the epidemic and meds and prep and all of that,” he said. “I think either grassroots or established organizations need to step up and get on the same page as far as the information that’s disseminated.”
HBO offers a preview of The Battle of AmfAR Sunday, December 1 3:45 p.m. prior to its official prime-time debut Monday, December 2 at 9 p.m. with other airings through the month.