In late September 1992, Kermit Cole approached Carolyn Jones and George DiSipio with the idea of creating a film based on their in-progress photo book Living Proof. The project brought together men, women and children with two common threads: They’re all HIV positive and they’re all living positively. These people have changed their lives -- quitting their jobs, their drugs, the nonsense of everyday life -- and started living for themselves.

Living Proof: HIV and the Pursuit of Happiness allows us to eavesdrop on conversations in the photo studio and beyond. Treatment plans are frequent topics but as they talk about their lives, a single sentiment percolates upward with amazing consistency: “For the first time I’m really living. And maybe for the first time I’m really happy.”

This wisdom has an effect on everyone, regardless of serostatus. After I watched it I auditioned for the Alvin Ailey School of Dance and quit smoking. I realized that I didn’t need AIDS to understand my mortality. Kermit Cole’s documentary reveals the true face of AIDS and is, ultimately, about disclosing what life with and without AIDS can and should be.

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