Coming to theatres today, Friday, June 14:
Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis
SFFILM Doc Stories 2018
At the dawn of the AIDS crisis, nurses and caregivers defied fear and stigma to establish the world’s first AIDS hospital ward.
Part of a growing body of retrospective work that looks back at the early years of the AIDS crisis, a time of criminal federal neglect, irrational fear, and heartbreaking loss, Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis’ doc focuses on one of the epicenters of the crisis, San Francisco, and the work of medical caregivers beginning in the early 1980s. Drawing from archival footage and the testimony of nurses, doctors, volunteers, and, sometimes surprisingly, survivors, this fairly conventional but nevertheless impactful film details the pioneering efforts of a small group of San Francisco General Hospital healthcare workers to set up ward 5B, the first ward exclusively devoted to patients with AIDS. While many in the medical community at the time before HIV was identified as the cause of the disease – including critics within the very same hospital – debated the safety of treating patients with AIDS without the extreme precautions of head-to-toe hazmat suits, the nurses and volunteers of 5B refused to bow to fear, and actually pushed past standard protocols of clinical detachment to insist on caring, human contact. Contrasting their approach with the hateful, fearmongering statements of figures like Dr Lorraine Day, a chief of surgery who remains wholly unsympathetic and unrepentant to this day, the film demonstrates the deep impact this kind of compassionate care had on patients who, for too long, knew that AIDS was a death sentence, and the lasting influence 5B had on other hospitals around the country.