Today is World AIDS Day, dedicated to raising awareness around the growing global crisis. We, at The Quint, have chosen five films that deal with AIDS, in different measures, for your understanding, and entertainment.
Darrell Roodt’s film tells the story of a young mother diagnosed with AIDS, how it turns her life upside down with a husband in denial, and omission from her community. Leleti Khumalo as Yesterday shows the resilience of a dying mother who wishes to see her child in a school, and fills the story with empathy. Rooted in the reality of ignorance and stigma around AIDS in South Africa, the film doesn’t take the manipulative route, instead opts for a direct approach, letting the characters carry the truth through living and dying.
2. The Normal Heart (2014)
Based on Larry Kramer’s play of the same name, this film depicts the rise of the HIV-AIDS crisis in New York City among the LGBT community in the 80s. While the story isn’t much to fall for, it’s the performances from a starry ensemble (Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons and Julia Roberts) that carry us through. For those refusing to have a dialogue with history, this one works both as a time capsule, as well as a film that bursts with dramatic tension. This is a film that yells, and does it for good measure, with a rare fury.
3. Philadelphia (1993)
Upon its release, The Silence of the Lambs came under heavy scrutiny by members of the LGBT community which made director Jonathan Demme realise the lack of positive gay characters in mainstream cinema. He atoned by making Philadelphia, a big-budget star vehicle that addressed homophobia and AIDS. With Oscar wins and millions in box-office receipt, it changed the national discourse on AIDS in America. Though the film doesn’t have the usual polish of Demme, and shamelessly manipulates to drive its message, its historical significance can’t be denied. And yes, it’s always good to watch Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington playing off each other.
4. Sólo Con Tu Pareja (1991)
Before Alfonso Cuarón burst into the world of cinema with an intention to wow, he made this small feature in his home country. Dealing with a bachelor who can’t keep it in his pants, this is a revenge drama of funniest proportions where AIDS has been used as a trope to drive the narrative. Predominantly a sex comedy, and partly a love story, this film shows what the fear of a deadly disease can do. The farce never takes itself too seriously, and shows the sign of an assured director who can deal with sexual mores like a pro.
5. All About My Mother (1999)
This Pedro Almodóvar’s masterpiece is a work of cinematic wonder, for it balances tricky ends of campy melodrama and genuine emotional heft with beguiling ease. Telling the story of a mother recovering from the death of her young son, this film takes us on a journey of feminine beauty and alternate sexualities to a phenomenally moving effect. Stricken by disease or suffering in exclusion, it is love that we go back to, love that builds our family, even if new and outside convention.
(This story is from The Quint’s archives and was first published on 1 December 2015, to mark World AIDS Day.)