CINEMATIC HISTORY

Everyone Should Have To See We Were Here‘s Emotional Depiction Of The SF AIDS Epidemic

Queerty‘s Outfest coverage continues with We Were Here, a documentary about the summer of love in San Francisco, the resulting AIDS epidemic the followed after the death of Harvey Milk, and the creative infrastructure that the queer community cobbled together when faced with governmental silence.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT: The film interviews five different San Franciscans who lived in the city before and after the epidemic. It follows their “different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves as they highlight the [AIDS-related] political battles, sexual complexities, and terrible emotional toll.” Using old news footage, photographs, newspapers, and illustrative anecdotes, We Were Here manages to squeeze in over 20 years of history in just 90-minutes while still delivering a thorough, evenly-paced examination that honors its subjects well.

IS IT ANY GOOD: Absolutely. In fact, the film does an excellent job of condensing a very complicated political, medical, and community issue into its most human and emotional terms. There’s the story of an HIV-infected man who lost three young lovers to the virus, the ambitious immunologist who fell victim to one of the earliest experimental treatments, the nurse who crossed an ACT-UP picket line to get information from an AIDS conference, and countless queers who tried to provide food, comfort, and love to those that others would not touch.

RATING: Five out of five quilt patches – Even though this powerful historical document concentrates almost solely on young white men affected by AIDS during the 80s and 90s, it should still be required viewing for any student, any LGBT person, and any caretaker and government agent working in the medical community who wants to learn how to integrate the epidemic’s lessons into a more just, loving, and humane community today. The film provides laughter and hope with its well-spoken interviewees while still managing to draw tears from those who never experienced the epidemic and the groups of older adults who cried and held each other while watching in the Outfest auditorium.