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Popular Topics in The Arts
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Topics In the News
World AIDS Day: Two Documentaries
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 12/01/11
Last updated on: 12/04/11
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Video still from Darling! The Piet-Dirk Uys Story.
World AIDS Day calls attention to the history of the disease and to the plight of those who suffer from it. The first observance of World AIDS Day occurred on December 1, 1988. It was originally sponsored by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), but since 2005 the project has been administered by an independent organization, The World AIDS Campaign.

In honor of World AIDS Day, it is appropriate to spotlight two documentaries that explore responses to AIDS in South Africa and in San Francisco, respectively.

Julian Shaw's Darling! The Piet-Dirk Uys Story (2007) chronicles the history of the struggle against AIDS in South Africa and the leadership provided to that struggle by the remarkable South African entertainer, satirist, and drag queen Piet-Dirk Uys.

Uys is best known for his character Evita Bezuidenhout, a white Afrikaner socialite, who was inspired by Australian comedian Barry Humphries's character Dame Edna Everage and named in honor of Evita Peron. Under Apartheid, Uys used stand-up comedy to criticize and expose the absurdity of the South African government's racial policies. With the advent of AIDS, he turned his attention to exposing the absurdities of South African AIDS policies and of educating South African youth about AIDS.

Uys's work in combatting AIDS is recounted in the documentary made by New Zealand wunderkind Julian Shaw. The documentary, which was made when Shaw was in high school, may be viewed in its entirety here:

In addition to making documentaries, Julian Shaw has created a stir as an actor, most recently by his appearance in the viral video entitled "It's Time," made to promote marriage equality by Australia's community activist organization, GetUp.

A recently released documentary chronicles the history of AIDS in the United States. David Weissman's We Were Here, which was recently short-listed for an Academy Award as Best Documentary, recounts the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco. It explores how the city's inhabitants were affected by and responded to the calamity.

Stephen Holden of the New York Times has written, "Of all the cinematic explorations of the AIDS crisis, not one is more heartbreaking and inspiring than WE WERE HERE. . . . The humility, wisdom and cumulative sorrow expressed lend the film a glow of spirituality and infuse it with grace.

Here is the trailer for We Were Here:

WE WERE HERE (trailer) from David Weissman on Vimeo.

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