Opinion : Desert Migration - by Daniel F. Cardone

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January 8, 2014

Desert Migration

by Daniel F. Cardone

The director of a new documentary shares why he focused on aging with HIV/AIDS.

Daniel F. Cardone
Daniel F. Cardone
When I first starting working on the feature length documentary Desert Migration, I considered it a small project, something I'd do on the weekends to keep myself creatively active. It was intended to be an intimate oral history of the lives of certain men in Palm Springs, California, men who had lived through the AIDS crisis and had subsequently moved to the desert to "retire." I was interested in the idea of what happens when you are told, repeatedly, that you are going to die. You watch all of your friends die and you wait for your own death, but then it doesn't happen and you realize that what you were told was wrong. You're not dying. At least, not in the foreseeable future. So, now what?

Production still from Desert Migration

When I started to interview people, I was surprised by their honesty and their need to talk. What I thought would be a straightforward interview became a much-needed catharsis. My interview technique can kindly be described as "casual," but what these men appreciated was that I wasn't critiquing them, I wasn't evaluating, I was simply listening.

I always intended Desert Migration to be a first person experience. Every piece of knowledge imparted is personally biased, coming directly from those who have lived it. It's not objective, and it doesn't pretend to be. We all experience the world in different ways, and we all experience HIV in different ways. The film weaves together the different perspectives of these people to create an ocean of experience that illuminates our own lives, through contrast, contradiction or concurrence. As I researched the film, I realized there is a national, and global, zeitgeist emerging around the subject of aging with HIV/AIDS, a conversation that is growing louder and louder, and Desert Migration may well be the first feature documentary on the topic.

If there was an alternate title to the film, it could be We ARE Here, a variation on the title of another powerful HIV documentary titled We Were Here. We are here. We never went away. We thought we were going to, but we didn't. We lived, and we still live. The quality of our lives varies, but it does continue. It's our responsibility to determine what we do with this time. We are not dead, although to many we have been forgotten. It's a sad fact that happens to almost everyone as they get older. The fleeting but deafening noise of youth clamours for attention, and everything else gets pushed to the side. In the light of a crisis that has been taken off the boil but is still simmering along, a dismissive attitude is even more alarming.

Watch an extended trailer:

From my observations, HIV is now regarded as easily treatable, something people in the 1980s died from. Yes, the AIDS crisis was horrible, but that's over now, right? Only people in Third World countries die of AIDS? Anyone who is reading this will know that the only easy part of being HIV positive is the act of swallowing a single pill. But try swallowing handfuls of pills, day in, day out. Try dealing with the side effects, too numerous and amorphous to coherently categorize when combined with the complications of aging. Everyone experiences deterioration of the body as they age, but this is clearly accelerated by HIV and medications designed to suppress it. This first generation of people to grow old with HIV are essentially test subjects. We need to see what happens to them, how they deal with it, and what we can do to support them and the future generations of HIV-positive people, until the virus is eradicated. This is why it is important that their voices are heard, and their stories taken seriously. I look forward to sharing them with you.


Daniel F. Cardone is the director and producer of the documentary Desert Migration. Marc Smolowitz, co-founder of The HIV Story Project, also is a producer of the film. The first round of production took place in October 2013, but they are still raising funds for the next round, which is slated to begin in March 2014. To contribute to their Indiegogo campaign, click here.

Search: Daniel Cardone, Desert Migration, Palm Springs, California, documentary, aging


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  comments 1 - 15 (of 21 total)     next > >>

Ann, Fort Myers, 2014-04-22 13:36:59
While I can not speak for anyone else; I will say that as a Woman who tested positive in 1987 at the age of 19; it is still disconcerting about how little we are even acknowledged. I am often made to feel that because I am not a Gay Man I don't matter. Sorry guys, you don't own the corner of LTS by yourselves, there are quite a few of us Women out there also. How about sharing a story about one of us? We are as strong (and in some cases, stronger) Just my two cents...

Kubla, San Diego, 2014-04-17 21:03:54
Is being indigent a superior thing? Some of the posters here seem to think that people like me who have money (that I worked hard for) and good benefits (which came from the job I retired from) are disgusting coddled and smarmy A listers. To them being a professional (or retired professional) is a badge of shame. If I ever were to be indigent, I am certain that I would handle it with much more grace and much less spite than some of the other snarling commenters on this thread.

Alex H., Los Angeles, 2014-04-16 21:24:03
I agree that the comments of stefan45 are inappropriate. I've been POZ since 1984 but I still managed to plan ahead and work until retirement even while dealing with serious health problems. Now at 63 years old I have a comfortable retirement pension and great health insurance. Does my planning and hard work make me "swarmy"? Does that make my issues and health problems any less valid than anyone else's? Stefan45 only comes across as bitter and jealous. That's just sad.

Joe, Sacramento, 2014-04-14 23:44:35
stefan45 hurls insults at "swarmy professionals" who are "coddled" and therefore are apparently not as real, human and deserving as he is. Then he complains about others being judgmental ("pozphobic") towards him. Perhaps if stefan dealt with his anger, jealousy and stereotypical perceptions then he would be a much healthier and happier HIV person.

Roger, Albuquerque, 2014-03-22 14:37:38
Thank you for this excellent documentary. I tested positive in 1984, began AZT in '87 and have been on meds since. Now, at age 63, I'm feeling a mixture of profound gratitude and total isolation. I'm told that I should begin thinking that I will live another 10-20 yrs. I can't believe it, but it sounds good given my present health. It's so important to drag our history with us, kicking and screaming. I've never been to PS and would like to attend the premier. Please send me details of when/where

Andy, Bloomsburg, pa, 2014-02-28 09:33:04
Exactly, I have a day, what am I going to do with it. When I was diagnosed 5 years ago, I closed my business of 23 years, sold my house, and moved home to die. Guess what? or should I say now what?

phillip r., Los Angeles, 2014-02-11 13:28:13
The cynic/realist in me has to agree with stefan45 re "A" list gay men profiled.I live on a fixed SSDI income and stayed in LA. I could never afford the lifestyle portrayed in trailer. I wasn't a white collar professional.It's a great retirement venue, for those who can afford it. What about all the men and women who don't have the $$ for a cloistered Gay enclave and who live w/the same back stories but far less support? Mr. Cardone chose a group ez to locate but otherwise just the same.

SirVivor, Los Angeles, 2014-02-05 01:11:08
Great subject for a doc! When you refer to us a test subjects for aging with HIV I wonder if you asked how it was to be a test subject for some of the drugs used to treat HIV as they were coming up with the right drug cocktail.It is dismaying that hardly anyone ever mentions the absolute nightmare so many of us faced with disfiguring lipodystrophy.Many of us paid a cruel price for our survival.Any number of plastic surgeons can attest to the tragic isolation and suicides.Thx for doing this doc.

mike NZ, , 2014-02-02 21:53:14
I stumbled acros this in !New Zealand and as a 50 yr old with HIV for only 4 years, made me think more positively about my future. I WILL have an old age after all, albeit with med related complications on top of the usual age related ones, i wish this documentary could be seen on worldwide release. I for one would welcome it at our LGBT film event in Christchurch ( unless I missed it of course).Can it all be seen on line?? I know lots of pos men who would get a lot of hope from this. Thank you.

stefan45, Missoula Mt: Syracuse NY, 2014-01-31 18:30:07
Val I regret to say that I don't know what "very LTS" means, but please tell us your story. My criticism of this entire presentation so far has been its lack of interest in the marginalized among us with hiv, we who are aged, living in pozphobic parts of the US, especially without standard best level treatments as in the US South So tell us with respect stephen

Val Jackson, Sacramento, CA, 2014-01-29 20:39:09
I have a story to tell. Very LTS but female. Interested?

MAT STRAZZ, BOSTON,MA, USA, 2014-01-29 16:07:43
It is about time that aging with HIV be talked about. Have had HIV since 83, sick in 79. Living now with AIDS, there is no social programs, nothing of any support, of any kind.

Butch Thompson, Wilton Manors, Florida, 2014-01-28 10:01:35
For years I have been discussing this topic and it's importance to our community. I am glad to see something actually being documented and I am working on programs here to address the topic.

stefan45, Missoula MT, 2014-01-18 15:26:09
it is typical of the current, smarmy, "professionals" that constitute our "A" gays that perspective on aging and hiv would be thought trenchant when provided by some of the most coddled among us, as if Palm Springs kings in exile could possibly speak to the situation of those of us who are, firstly, keenly intelligent, and also long-term poz(since 1981?), indigent, aging and confronted by pozphobic young men totally immersed in consumerism. Go to AL MS SC to learn the inequities of hiv care

lostnalone, , 2014-01-18 15:15:11
Tell me there is a HIV+ only community and I will pack my bags and leave for it right away.

comments 1 - 15 (of 21 total)     next > >>


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