Today’s look at the 2015 Sundance US Documentary Competition starts with Jean Carlomusto’s LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE & ANGER, a far-ranging portrait of the controversial activist/author.
Sundance Program Description:
From the onset of the AIDS epidemic, author Larry Kramer emerged as a fiery activist, an Old Testament-style prophet full of righteous fury who denounced both the willful inaction of the government and the refusal of the gay community to curb potentially risky behaviors. Co-founder of both the service organization Gay Men’s Health Crisis and the direct action protest group ACT UP, Kramer was vilified by some who saw his criticism to be an expression of self-hatred, while lionized by others who credit him with waking up the gay community – and, eventually, the government and medical establishment – to the devastation of the disease.
As Kramer battles health complications stemming from years of fighting his own HIV diagnosis, filmmaker Jean Carlomusto weaves a rich tapestry from his countless media appearances and amateur activist footage, drawing viewers into an immediate experience of the frontline battle against AIDS, and forming a vibrant portrait of the still controversial figure.
Director/producer Jean Carlomusto has been making films since the late 1980s, with much of her work focused on HIV/AIDS, originally as part of activist collectives such as Testing the Limits and DIVA TV. She was one of the cinematographers of Sundance alum FAST TRIP, LONG DROP (1994), and her work also appears as part of the archival footage in HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (2012). Also serving as producers are Ellin Baumel, a Sundance alum with the fiction feature WHATEVER (1998) and as a line producer of IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL (2004), and Shanti Avirgan, who previously co-directed and co-produced PILLS PROFITS PROTEST, about HIV/AIDS treatment activism around the world, and was the associate producer on Carlomusto’s previous documentary, SEX IN AN EPIDEMIC. An HBO production, the film’s executive producer is the inimitable Sheila Nevins, whose many Sundance projects include this year’s KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK, GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF, and THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST, as well as last year’s US Documentary Directing Award winner THE CASE AGAINST 8, CAPTIVATED, and PRIVATE VIOLENCE. The project’s editors are HBO’s Geof Bartz, whose Sundance credits include BOY INTERRUPTED (2009), HEAR AND NOW (2007), and STRIPPER (1986), among many others; and Gladys Murphy, an assistant editor on Park City titles such as THE FENCE (2010) and SHOUTING FIRE (2009).
Why You Should Watch:
As noted in my program description above, Carlomusto pulls from an impressively robust archive to tell Kramer’s compelling biography, benefitting from a personal friendship with the surprisingly vulnerable man as well as from her own history chronicling the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The last few years have seen a number of impressive documentaries revisiting the early days of the epidemic and the gay community’s response. This project makes an essential addition to this growing canon, focused as it is on one of the primary, if contentious, figures in the struggle, from a number of perspectives – including his own.
For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page and Carlomusto’s website. For Carlomusto’s thoughts on the film, check out her Sundance Meet the Artists profile and her Indiewire filmmaker interview. For screening dates and times at Sundance, click the link in the first paragraph.
To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance filmmaker class of 2015 Twitter list.