Until last year, no mainstream African-American filmmaker had confronted the AIDS pandemic on celluloid. If that seems surprising—given black peoples’ disproportionately high infection rate—the fact that the provocative director Spike Lee will be the first does not. In 1992, the rabble-rousing auteur proclaimed to Rolling Stone: “I’m convinced AIDS is a government-engineered disease.” More than a decade later, his stance seems to have mellowed. “[Black America has] been slow to respond to AIDS, [because] in our ignorance we equated AIDS with being solely a homosexual phenomenon,” Lee told The Advocate in 2004. In September 2005, he trained his lens on HIV, premiering his contribution to All the Invisible Children, a package of seven films by eight international directors. Lee’s short segment, Jesus Children of America, follows a poor schoolgirl named Blanca who learns that she’s HIV positive after a playground squabble. “There is very much a message of hope at the end, where Blanca sees a way upward,” Lee says. “I wanted to convey that there was light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s tough. AIDS is killing us.” Let’s hope the perennial iconoclast keeps doing the right thing.
February 1, 2006 • By Josh Sparber