Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Normal Heart

The video above is the trailer for the HBO original film, The Normal Heart. Based on Larry Kramer’s famous play, it tells the story of the earliest years of the AIDS epidemic, and how gay people fought back. It’s “must-see TV”.

Kramer’s play (he also wrote the screenplay) a strongly messaged story, pulling no punches as it captures the desperation of those early days. It looks as if that the film captures that quite well.

The film is directed by Emmy Award winning director Ryan Murphy (of Glee and the The New Normal, among others), and features a star-studded cast, including Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts.

As Mark Ruffalo’s character says near the end of the trailer: “You can’t stop fighting for the ones you love.” That’s what the story is all about.

Gay men of a certain age strongly remember what those days were like: The grieving and loss and outrage as friends died and no one in power gave a damn. We remember when people in power seriously considered suggestions that the government should tattoo all gay men, and that people with AIDS should be quarantined in concentration camps. We remember when we had vicious enemies in the halls of power, many of whom—like dead Jesse Helms—did all they could to prevent any action by the government because they wanted us all dead.

Times changed only because people gave a damn and fought back, Larry Kramer among them. I was one of the “suit and tie” activists, lobbying politicians to be fucking human beings for a change and actually do something. But, as I’ve said so many times before, our access to politicians was made possible by the angry ACT-UP activists in the streets. We never moderated or toned down our message, but thanks to ACT-UP activists, we seemed so calm and moderate by comparison that we got access that we’d NEVER have had otherwise, and we used that access to force change. Most of the progress over the past 20 years is built upon the successes of 30 years ago, and those successes were built on the activism of Kramer’s ACT-UP.

All of that—the activism, the protests and, ultimately, the successes—happened because we were fighting for our lives, and the lives of the men we loved. Failure was NOT an option.

So, I’m excited about this film, so long in the making, because it will help to tell the real story of those frightening and empowering days more than three decades ago. Those of us who survived the Plague Years have a duty to speak up, first, to ensure that the stories of those we lost are never forgotten. But we also must speak up to remind people that so much of the pain and suffering of those early years was needlessly exacerbated by cold, brutal, heartless, inhuman and even evil politicians. Times have changed, but the threat from politicians like that is the same now as it was then, even if there are fewer of them in positions of power—for now. Things can change very fast.

There’s one reason we continue the fight: “You can’t stop fighting for the ones you love.”

The Normal Heart premieres on Sunday, May 25 in North America, and I presume it’ll screen in New Zealand on Sky TV’s SoHo Channel, which is basically HBO in this country.

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