On Tour: Newport News, VA

by Jim Hubbard on April 15, 2014

From the On Screen/In Person blog, the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Touring Film Program

No running for planes this time, but halfway through the flight from Erie to Philadelphia the plane started shaking violently and making a lot of noise. The pilot calmly announced that we were encountering a lot of ice at 17,000 feet and that once we descended to 14,000 the plane would stop shaking. And it did.

Gloriously, it’s Spring in Newport News. Cherry trees in bloom line the streets. I saw a magnolia, yellow impatiens, phlox in bloom and the first warbler of Spring – only a yellow-rumped, but delightful nevertheless. On the Noland Trail, I saw a pair of Bald Eagles.

Professor John Nichols Film History Class

Tuesday morning I spoke in Professor John Nichols’s Film History class. I talked about the making of the film and asked the students how they learned about AIDS. They seemed most interested in my history as a filmmaker. I spoke about the way that the infrastructures that support film demand a certain kind of filmmaking. For instance, there is one distribution apparatus for mass-market feature films; theatrical, festival and college campus distribution systems for documentaries; another for experimental film and the more a particular film adheres to the dominant structure the more support it gets.

The dominant paradigm in U.S. documentary filmmaking is that the story should be told by 5 or 6 characters that the “audience can relate to.” The further the film strays from that structure, the slimmer its chances of getting funding, showing on TV or screening in major film festivals. The story of ACT UP is the story of a group with fluid leadership and it would have been impossible to tell the story that way. Many people were important in ACT UP and the major tenet of AIDS Activist Video is that people with AIDS and the people in the trenches fighting the crisis with them are the true experts and they should speak for themselves. So it would not have been an accurate reflection of ACT UP if only 5 or 6 people spoke for the group.

We had an excellent audience for the screening, a good mixture of students, faculty and members of the community. Chadra Pittman Walke, an AIDS and community organizer, and Ben Godwin, a representative of the campus LGBT group, joined me for the discussion after the film. They added insight and a local perspective to the discussion. We talked about the current AIDS situation in Virginia, the state of AIDS education and the effect of marriage equality on the AIDS epidemic.

Chadra Pittman Walke and Ben Godwin

Christopher Newport University screening

Another shot of Christopher Newport University screening

Although Christopher Newport University is 50 years old, most of the campus buildings were built within the last 20 years in a faux Georgian style. The most interesting building on campus is the Ferguson Center for the Arts, where the screening of United in Anger was held. It has a striking curved arcade of rounded arches formed by oval shaped pillars. I’m sure there is a better architectural way of describing this, but see the accompanying videos.

Ferguson Center for the Arts

Ferguson Center for the Arts

Ferguson Center for the Arts


 

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On Screen/In Person podcast

by Jim Hubbard on April 13, 2014

I was interviewed by Kimberly Steinle-Super of the On Screen/In Person podcast about United in Anger. I’m now on tour with the On Screen/In Person tour, sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. Take a listen here.

 

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On Tour: Erie, PA

by Jim Hubbard on April 11, 2014

From the On Screen/In Person blog, the Mid-Atlantic Region’s Touring Film Program

The great adventure began inauspiciously on Saturday, April 4th, when the flight from New York was late getting into Detroit and I had to run from one end of the Detroit airport to the other. I made the flight to Erie with 2 minutes to spare. That evening though the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality held a lovely reception for me at the Alta Cucina restaurant in Erie.

I met about 25 members of the community, including one woman who was married to a man named Jim Hubbard. I had a delightful time talking to Brandon, David, David, Rex, Mike, Kevin, Katie, Mary, Leah, Josh, Daisy and a lot of people whose names I promised to remember, but didn’t.

The next day began with a long discussion on film with Dan Sullivan at WQLN. It was for a film show to be broadcast later, so we talked about a wide range of filmic topics including my early work such as Stop the Movie (Cruising) andElegy in the Streets. It was Dan’s first radio interview and he asked interesting questions that I didn’t have pat answers to. I really enjoy an interview like that because it makes me consider what I’m doing and saying. Also, it was a rare opportunity to talk about work other than United in Anger and speak about how my experimental film work influenced and shaped United in Anger.

The screening later that day in the charming Taylor Little Theater had a small audience, but we had a lively discussion about the AIDS crisis and other aspects of HIV. Several college-age women spoke about their experiences with AIDS education and they were not always what one would expect. In one Pennsylvania small town there was no AIDS education; in a suburb of Buffalo, another young woman had extensive education. One woman recounted the story of her aunt, a high school gym teacher who insisted on doing AIDS education in her high school during the 90s. She was told that she would have to do abstinence only education and she refused and told the kids the truth. The one man in the audience who had lived through the early crisis in Erie spoke movingly about the stigma, the isolation, the silence and the lack of information that local people with AIDS endured.

Afterwards, Christine Olivier and her boyfriend Anthony took me on a tour of Erie. I especially wanted to see Presque Isle State Park, which is a magnificent peninsula jutting into Lake Erie and wrapping back around Erie and a very important birding site on the Atlantic Flyway. I even identified a bird I had never seen before – a Bonaparte’s Gull. Then we had dinner at a picturesque spot overlooking the lake and had a spirited discussion about travel, immigration and film.

Oops, I forgot to take pictures! Next stop I promise I will.

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Watch United in Anger instantly today!

by Jim Hubbard on March 25, 2014

We’re very excited to announce that United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is now available to rent and buy through iTunes, Google and YouTube. You can instantly watch the full-length documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic.

Rent or buy United in Anger today!

iTunes
$9.99 Buy SD | $3.99 Rent SD
$12.99 Buy HD | $4.99 Rent HD
To buy in countries outside of the U.S., see the list at the end of this post.

Google Play
$12.99 Buy | $3.99 Rent

YouTube
$12.99 Buy SD | $3.99 Rent SD
$14.99 Buy HD | $4.99 Rent HD

The film will be available to purchase on Amazon in the next few weeks. Want to purchase a DVD? You won’t have to wait very long. DVDs will be available mid-April. Stay tuned!

To buy the film in the following countries use the corresponding URL:

Great Britain https://itunes.apple.com/gb/movie/united-in-anger-history-act/id779036446

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Inspiring activism in Russia

by Jim Hubbard on November 20, 2013

Jim Hubbard is interviewed by Russian television. Photo by Sarah Schulman

by Christa Orth

When Jim Hubbard screened United in Anger: A History of ACT UP this summer in Hamburg, he met activists from Russia who hoped to bring the film to their country. With the help of advocates Maria Markina and Genia Odesser, Jim and Sarah Schulman were able to travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg last month to do three screenings of the film.They also met with HIV and LGBT activists who have been doing important justice work in an increasingly hostile political environment.

Russian anti-gay politics has grabbed international attention in the past few months, so it’s especially significant that the film would screen there now. Jim and Sarah screened in Moscow at the Media Impact Festival for Activist Art, and had two more in St. Petersburg at a well-known progressive bookstore Word Order, and the Mayakovsky Library. HIV/AIDS and LGBT advocates from organizations Side by Side, Dance for Life, and LaSky welcomed them and helped organize and advertise the screenings. The rooms were packed with people eager to learn about ACT UP, and to share their frustrations about the current Russian situation.

Maykovsky Library in St. Petersburg. Photo by Sarah Schulman

Sarah wrote about the trip in her “Final Report from Russia,” specifically about the needs of Russians infected with and affected by HIV:

“The prevention problems are basically that there is no sex education and no methadone. VERY SIGNIFICANT problems…

…I was really impressed with the straight Harm Reduction, former addict activists. They are focused on winnable goals, seem to have wisdom about how to go about getting the drugs they need, and I feel that they will succeed in improving treatments. Although getting those treatments to more than 10% of the million infected Russians is another matter.

(Read all of Sarah’s report here.)

What ACT UP did in the United States and in Europe was to bring thousands of people to the streets in massive protest. Jim Hubbard told me he learned the issue of protest is complicated in Russia because of what’s legal and illegal. Even a small gathering of activists can risk massive police harassment and anti-gay violence. One person can legally protest with a sign, but otherwise there are real limitations around how protesters can resist homophobic, AIDSphobic, and racist policies.

Jim said some AIDS activists are hopeful because they experienced a recent unexpected victory. They have been concentrating their efforts protesting the lack of access to HIV/AIDS drugs — there are grinding bureaucratic problems getting drugs for people with HIV. After repeated protests at the Health Ministry, they weren’t seeing any movement in their favor. So they decided to do something no one else had ever done, and they staged a protest at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office. A few days later, they actually got a response, a small win in a much larger war.

Jim hopes that learning about ACT UP will help motivate even more people to get involved with social movements in Russia, and around the world. He said Russians are experiencing targeted political violence, it’s not merely gay bashing, and it’s not random. It’s critical for activists around the world to find ways to help the oppression in Russia — boycotting vodka and the Olympics is not an effective method. Jim says it’s most important to work with Russian advocates, and to “be supportive of Russians in ways that are helpful to them.” 

A group of people working collectively translated the film into Russian to give Russian-speakers access to these ideas. It has been a labor of love to bring the film’s message to the people. I asked Genia Odesser, one of the Russian translators, why he thinks it’s important to share the legacy of ACT UP with activists in Russia.

“I think the most important effect that United in Anger can have is not just about LGBT people and people with AIDS, but about human rights and about the dignity of any one person in Russia. There are many more discriminated groups and parts of the population who are discriminated against besides LGBT people and people with AIDS. It’s about the whole country and its whole people.

The reason is that people don’t really believe that they can fight for their rights that the Constitution gives them, and they can get success. They don’t trust themselves. It’s about everything: health care, electoral frauds, ethnic and gender discrimination and racism, about corruption. United in Anger can show the people there are some possibilities to change things, even if you are not many and you have nothing except yourself and a couple of friends with the same problem. It can teach the technology of protest and fighting for rights, whatever the problem is. 

Traditionally Russians are very patient with their government and leaders, and they have to learn to fight for themselves like people in other countries have learned and are still learning. American and Western European people are maybe a little more advanced in this and can share their experiences. ACT UP was a very powerful part of them. It was for me also the biggest reason why I did the translation.I wanted to share thе skills of protest and the skills of fighting with the Russian people, and with the Russian opposition.”

Read more about Jim and Sarah’s trip in the Moscow Times.

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Sarah Schulman | Report from Russia

by Jim Hubbard on November 7, 2013

Sarah and I traveled to Russia to screen United in Anger, and to meet with activists working on HIV and LGBT issues. Here’s her report:

FINAL REPORT FROM RUSSIA
by Sarah Schulman

Goodbye Russia. Well, we are exhausted. It’s hard to sum up everything we learned, but here it is:

WHAT IS HAPPENING TO QUEER PEOPLE:

Queer people are in a danger in Russia right now. A legal apparatus is being put into place that- even if it is never activated- has a chilling effect, causes fear and self-censorship and produces an open season for violence. This week the European Community announced a new openness towards Russian queer refugees and asylum seekers. And a number of people gay and straight said they anticipate more emigration.

Some people argue that the new anti-gay wave is Putin looking for scapegoats to distract from political problems. But others say that many Russians are fine with Putin, and are comfortable with the racism and prejudice. The anti-gay stuff is in sync with deep anti-Muslim waves aimed at people from former Soviet Republics. Both groups (and their cross-over points) are targeted by Nationalists, Racists and Orthodox Christians, who the state allows to act with violence and hateful incitement.

Another perspective suggests that because they were successful in organizing groups, and were reaching out into the regions, queers became a target for the government – not because of homosexuality per se- but because they were effective and visible political organizers. And the Putin government does not want organized political sectors. Which explains the new laws against assembly and protest. Also, because many queer people around the world have diasporic identities and care about other queers across borders, Russian queers have many international relationships, access to resources and the ability to communicate that surpass some other sectors. This makes them susceptible to “foreign agents” bills and other anti-NGO laws. Closing off these connections further isolates them and makes them more vulnerable.

The emphasis on “propaganda” that “corrupts youth” is a big part of the anti-gay wave. Cutting off young people from events and gatherings and information is serious. Cutting them off from HIV and sex education equally so. But it can also be used to cut them off from films, from internet information, even potentially from books. (Although when I donated copies of TIES THAT BIND: Familial Homophobia and Its Consequences to a library, the cool librarian assured me that there would be no restrictions on access by age. Yet.) This separation of queers over 18 from minors is one of the most tragic elements of the who crack-down, from my POV.

HIV

The situation in Russia is very different from the US, because most people with HIV are straight and were infected through needles, or straight sex with men infected with needles. There are significant divisions between the drug user HIV activists and the queer ones.

The preventions problems are basically that there is no sex education and no methadone. VERY SIGNIFICANT problems.

The treatment problems are basically that there is no centralized purchasing of drugs (health care is free and paid for by the state) so out-moded drugs in non-sensical combinations are in place when newer better treatments exist. For example they don’t have truvata, so they have more children born hiv+ than is necessary.

I was really impressed with the straight Harm Reduction, former addict activists. They are focused on winnable goals, seem to have wisdom about how to go about getting the drugs they need, and I feel that they will succeed in improving treatments. Although getting those treatments to more than 10% of the million infected Russians is another matter.

They, it seems, will not have the same problems as the queers and the Migrants who are really being set-up for some serious violence, fear and repression.

OLYMPICS

In my view, former Olympic champions should show up at Sochi with their medals to protest Russia’s anti-gay laws. The boycott just isn’t happening, and media-wise that seems like the easiest and most attention grabbing kind of action to organize.

What happens after the Olympics is very worrisome, and using the Olympics to draw attention to this now is a unique opportunity.

WHAT IS TO BE DONE

As people have told us. Protests are appreciated, coming to Russia with queer events, exhibits, shows, films, is important. Celebrities or people with credibility coming is important. The Dutch consulate and others have been visibly helpful, diplomatic condemnation of these laws, pressure from the EU, offers of Asylum. All of that matters. But none of it is a fix-it. This is a pathological situation that will go on for a long time and will probably get worse.

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Television premiere – June 26th

by Jim Hubbard on June 18, 2013

As a part of LGBT Pride Month, United in Anger will have its television television premiere on KCET Link TV Wednesday, June 26th at 9:00PM PDT. Other showings will follow on June 27th and 29th.

You can get Link TV on DISH Network channel 9410, DIRECT TV channel 375, and on hundreds of cable local access channels throughout the U.S. Click here to find your local Link TV channel.

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United in Anger in India

by Jim Hubbard on June 14, 2013

My interview with the newspaper Pioneer. Still NOT from the film.

I traveled to India recently to present the film at the 4th annual Kashish: Mumbai International Queer Film Festival. I had a wonderful time meeting LGBT people in India who are struggling to find their place in society. I also participated in the Filmmaker in Focus program, a conversation with a live audience to discuss my inspiration and acclaim as a filmmaker. Audiences responded positively to the message of activism in United in Anger. They also appreciated the portrayal of the LGBT community ‘s strength — to be themselves in the face of so much discrimination took incredible resilience.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview with K Bhardwaj for the Indian newspaper Pioneer:

K: How do you look at queer cinema worldwide?

Jim: I want to see films that come out of particular communities, so that Indian queer films look different from South African queer films or Italian queer films. It is especially important that they do not mimic U.S. queer films. Hollywood is a terrible influence around the world, promoting a culture of cartoon-like violence and bad relationships between people.

K: Why is it that popular actors keep away from queer cinema?

Jim: Because they don’t want to be perceived as queer. This is very strange because queerness and theater have always been connected. In Western culture, this is true. In Kabuki (form of Japanese theater), also, so I assume in other cultures as well. The problem is that there is stigma attached to being queer. I think it’s wonderful to be queer. I wouldn’t want to be straight. I think being normal is boring. We should all celebrate our magical queerness and not worry what anyone else thinks.

 

 

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United in Anger Educational DVD now available!

by Jim Hubbard on March 11, 2013

Our audience at Yale last year

Want to share United in Anger: A History of ACT UP with your students? The film and study guide are now available for schools, colleges, universities and libraries.

Hundreds of students whose schools have already hosted screenings around the globe have learned about the legacy of ACT UP, most of them for the first time.

After the film screened at Yale, George Chauncey, Chair of the LGBT Studies Program said, “My students, all of whom were born after ACT UP’s founding, were electrified, informed and inspired by United in Anger. Nothing they had read about ACT UP had given them so vivid a sense of the militancy, courage, compassion, tactics, media smarts, and influence of the organization, or its complex internal culture and politics. I plan to screen it every year in my LGBT history class, and highly recommend that other teachers do the same.”

The Study Guide has been designed largely in response to feedback offered during many screenings of the film, primarily at national and international film festivals and in college classrooms over a number of years.  Many of the questions posed in the guide are ones asked by students and activists in their efforts to better understand the legacy of ACT UP the film’s role in preserving that legacy, and its meaning for their own lives.  We are deeply appreciative to all those who have contributed their comments and questions.

You can purchase the film for an educational institution for $300. Please contact Jeffrey Winter at jeffrey@thefilmcollaborative.org or 323-207-8321.

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The New School Associate Dean Tony Whitfield, How to Survive a Plague Director David France, and me

On Saturday, How to Survive a Plague Director, David France, and I sat down for a conversation about our two historic documentaries. Big thanks to the hundreds of people who attended the event in person and through live stream, and participated by asking questions on Twitter. Thank you to Visual AIDS and The New School for hosting, and to our friend Tony Whitfield for moderating. In case you missed it, you can check out the video here.

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