2011 Sundance Docs in Focus: WE WERE HERE

My look at Sundance 2011’s US Documentary Competition title continues with returning filmmakers, Director David Weissman and Co-Director Bill Weber, and their new project, WE WERE HERE, which looks at the early impact of AIDS on San Francisco through the stories of some of the men, and one woman, who lived through the epidemic.

Sundance Program Description:

In the early 1970s, in the shadow of the Stonewall riots and the free-love movement, gay men and lesbians flocked to San Francisco to find acceptance. They formed a thriving, tight-knit community until the arrival of AIDS in the early 1980s drove them under siege.

Director David Weissman (THE COCKETTES screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival) chronicles this transformative era through the stories of five individuals who lived through the best and the worst of it. In the face of unheralded tragedy, these men and women relate how they were affected and the way their community united to help those suffering and prevent further deaths.

Elegiac but inspirational, WE WERE HERE bears witness to the experiences of those who died—and, equally importantly, those who lived—in the earliest years of the AIDS epidemic. Its story is universal, showing the capacity for compassion and strength in all of us, even against unimaginable adversity.

Some Background:
After making a number of short films beginning in the 1980s, Weissman made a psychedelic splash with his first feature-length doc, THE COCKETTES, a portrait of the late 1960s-early 1970s San Francisco-based genderbending hippy performing troupe who became infamous for their parody performances, including a drag queen version of Tricia Nixon’s wedding. The film had a strong run, touring both LGBT and more general film festivals around the world, and was given a limited theatrical run by Strand Releasing. Weissman is also one of the organizers of QDoc, the only film festival in the US whose programming is focused exclusively on LGBTQ documentaries.

Why You Should Watch:
There used to be a lot more films about AIDS, both those examining the present-day state of the epidemic, and those looking back at the early years. With the development of better drug therapies, and the subsequent false sense that the disease is not a big deal, it’s not been a topic that’s been addressed as much in recent years. WE WERE HERE serves as a corrective – reminding audiences about the legacy of the AIDS crisis and, significantly, the stories of those who mobilized to fight it. It’s also important to note that the film is hopeful, while still paying respect to the many individuals who lost their lives, and universal, despite its focus on San Francisco.

Screening Info:
For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph above. The film also has a website listing its Facebook page, as well as an email list sign-up, to keep you updated on future screenings.

Leave a comment

Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.