The Film bookstore features DVDs of fictional movies about HIV/AIDS. Films are listed in alphabetical order by title. Click the title to read more about each film. Missing your favorite film? Click here to send us your recommendations.
- 3 Needles
- And the Band Played On
- Angels in America
- An Early Frost
- Boys on the Side
- Breaking the Surface: The Greg Louganis Story
- The Event
- Fatal Love
- Life Support
- Longtime Companion
- One Week
- Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire
In China, Ping (Lucy Liu) is a pregnant young woman running a black market blood collection scam that creates a mini-epidemic in a rural village. In Montreal, Denys (Shawn Ashmore) is a porn actor hiding his positive HIV status in order to continue working and supporting his mother (Stockard Channing), who herself goes to extreme lengths to provide for the family’s future. And, in Africa, Sister Clara (Chloë Sevigny) is a young novice nun driven to convert the rapidly dying Africans to Catholicism before it’s too late who makes a desperate bargain with a corrupt plantation owner to help prevent the spread of HIV in the region.
The late journalist Randy Shilts’ best-selling book on the burgeoning AIDS crisis was adapted for cable TV by Arnold Schulman. In 1981, researchers begin discerning a mysterious new disease that apparently affects only homosexual males (or so they thought at that time). Working independently, and with marked hostility toward one another, an American and a French research team manage to identify and name the dreaded HIV virus. The long-range effects of AIDS is experienced through the first- and secondhand experiences of several unfortunates, including a choreographer (Richard Gere) whose character is said to be based on Michael Bennett. The all-star cast (most of whom eschewed their usual high salaries) includes Lily Tomlin as San Francisco health official Selma Dritz, Matthew Modine as Centers for Disease Control researcher Don Francis, Alan Alda as NIH official Robert Gallo (who emerges as the villain of the piece), Ian McKellan as gay activist Bill Kraus, and Glenne Headley, Steve Martin and Anjelica Huston in cameo roles. And the Band Played On debuted September 11, 1993, on HBO.
Extravagantly mounted on a budget that reportedly topped $60 million, this small-screen adaptation of Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is an extraordinarily complex and rewarding work of art. Set during the mid-’80s, when America was being battered by the first wave of AIDS deaths, it depicts the variegated reactions of numerous people whose contact with the dreaded disease, however ephemeral, irrevocably changes their lives. One of them is the infamous McCarthyite lawyer Roy Cohn (ferociously played by Al Pacino), himself an AIDS sufferer who personifies the hypocrisy and callousness of the “official” response to the plague. His lack of empathy is stunning; even on his own deathbed, he castigates his gay nurse (Jeffrey Wright, reprising his Tony-winning stage role) and taunts the spirit of the woman he helped put to death, accused Communist spy Ethel Rosenberg (Meryl Streep, who essays three major roles). Another patient, Prior Walter (Justin Kirk), is visited by an angel (Emma Thompson) after being deserted by his self-pitying lover, Louis (Ben Shenkman). Louis becomes involved with closeted gay man Joe Pitt (Patrick Wilson), a Mormon lawyer whose distraught wife (Mary-Louise Parker) eventually becomes delusional. These characters periodically collide as the plot develops, and their interactions are memorable, thanks largely to the cast’s uniformly superb delivery of Kushner’s witty, direct, and occasionally poetic dialogue. Angels in America reflects the anger so deeply felt by AIDS activists, and its implicit and explicit indictments of Reagan-era inaction fix blame for the epidemic’s spread on the federal government. There’s no denying the power of its brilliantly realized presentation, and one critic called this HBO presentation “a transcendent work of art” with ample justification. It’s a thought-provoking, unforgettable film that will leave a lasting impression on all who see it.
In An Early Frost, it is 1985 and Michael Pierson (Aidan Quinn) is a successful young lawyer in Chicago who has just been made a partner at his law firm. But he lives a double life, keeping his boyfriend a secret from both family and co-workers. Everything changes when he gets sick with pneumonia and is diagnosed with AIDS, forcing him to be open about the disease and his homosexuality for the first time. Back home with his family, they learn to adjust to the son they never knew, and realize that they love him just the same.
Raucous, heartwarming gals-on-the-road odyssey with lesbian lounge singer Whoopi Goldberg and real estate salesperson Mary-Louise Parker heading on a cross-country car trip. Along the way they’re joined by flirtatious Drew Barrymore, and before they reach their Southern California destination, the trio encounters a series of happy and sad surprises.
The real-life story of Olympic diver Greg Louganis is chronicled in this made-for-television drama. Mario Lopez stars as Louganis, an adopted child who went through a difficult adolescence, only to emerge as a world-class diver in the 1988 Olympics. After a notorious diving injury during those games, Louganis went on to win two gold medals. After the games ended though, Louganis was forced to face an even more challenging period and go public with his homosexuality and deal with his HIV-positive status. The film is based on the book of the same name.
Canadian filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald directs the sentimental ensemble drama The Event. Nick (Parker Posey) is a district attorney investigating several deaths in the gay community of New York City’s Chelsea District. It seems that many AIDS sufferers have died under similar mysterious circumstances. Each case suggest the use of assisted suicide, which is illegal in New York. HIV-infected cellist Matt (Don McKellar) has died of a drug overdose following a large party in Manhattan given by his family and friends. Nick first questions his lover Brian (Brent Carver), who runs an HIV support clinic. Still looking for answers, she interviews Matt’s closest family members, including his mother Lila (Olympia Dukakis), his younger sister Dana (Sarah Polley), and his older sister Gaby (Joanna P. Adler). Meanwhile, Nick battles with her own past secrets involving her family back in New Jersey. The Event premiered at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival.
As one of a myriad of early 1990s TV movies centering around the AIDS issue, Molly Ringwald stars as Alison Gertz, an upscale Manhattanite who thinks she knows her way around. Still, Alison conducts an “unprotected” one-night affair, which results in her contacting the AIDS virus. Despite her alleged smarts, Alison continues to seek out sexual partners and can’t understand why they’re reluctant to sleep with her, even though she belatedly offers to use contraceptives.
HBO Films presents Academy Award nominee Queen Latifah (Chicago) in a heartbreaking story of one woman’s journey to the brink of self-destruction and despair, and her inspirational fight to gain back her dignity and her family. Ana is an HIV-positive former drug addict from Brooklyn, desperately struggling with her past and passionately trying to make things right with her involvement in an AIDS outreach group, Life Support. Inspired by a true story, Life Support is a touching, poignant tale of loving, losing and letting go.
Hailed as the first mainstream film to put a human face on the AIDS epidemic, Longtime Companion is a “remarkable” (Newsweek) drama that takes an honest, unflinching look at how this devastating disease changes everyone it touches. “Intelligent, unflinching and unpatronizing” (Boxoffice), and starring a “terrific ensemble cast” (Time), including Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner Bruce Davison, Campbell Scott, Dermot Mulroney and Mary-Louise Parker, this heartrending yet triumphant film “is an illuminating, deeply moving experience” (Los Angeles Times). During the summer of 1981, a group of friends in New York are completely unprepared for the onslaught of AIDS. What starts as a rumor about a mysterious “gay cancer” soon turns into a major crisis as, one by one, some of the friends begin to fall ill, leaving the others to panic about who will be next. As death takes its toll, the lives of these friends are forever redefinedby an unconditional display, of love, hope and courage.
In this independent drama, Varson (Kenny Young) is a week away from marrying his long-time girlfriend Kiya (Saadiqa Muhammed), and things ought to be going well for him. But that’s hardly the case; Varson is having serious trouble negotiating the corporate battlefield at work, and his friend Tyco (Eric Lane) has taken up residence on his couch (and isn’t taking the hint that it’s time to leave). But these problems seem like small potatoes when Varson is informed that his name appears on a list of men who slept with a woman who has tested positive for HIV, leaving him to wonder if he’s contracted the AIDS virus. One Week was the first feature film from writer and director Carl Seaton; leading man Kenny Young also contributed to the screenplay.
Alex Loynaz stars as earnest Real World cast-member Pedro Zamora in this intimate biopic tracing the HIV-positive immigrant’s rise from humble roots to becoming one of the most instantly recognizable HIV/AIDS activists in the United States as a result of his high profile role on MTV’s pioneering reality television series. In 1992, The Real World made it’s debut on MTV, forever altering the definition of the term “celebrity,” and providing a sympathetic face to the growing AIDS crisis for the millions of Americans who had yet to meet someone suffering from the devastating autoimmune disorder. Born the youngest child in a close-knit Cuban family, Zamora arrived in the United States as part of the 1980 Mariel boatlift. His mother died when he was just thirteen, the pain of the loss prompting the already promising student to hit the books even harder. Three short years and numerous bouts of unprotected sex later, Zamora discovered that he was HIV-positive after donating blood to the Red Cross. It was a crushing blow to the ambitious young student, though one that would unexpectedly give his life new meaning as well. As an activist and educator, Zamora longed to get his message to as many people as possible - and what better medium to do so than television? The producers were quick to recognize Zamora’s eagerness to participate in the Real World as well as his openness when it came to discussing his illness, and quickly invited him to join the cast. Not many folks have the opportunity to shine in the spotlight, though Zamora made the most of his fifteen minutes of fame by using it to enlighten and inform those who were still ignorant to the threat posed by the increasingly indiscriminate disease that was once thought only to affect only homosexuals.
At the time of its release, Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia was the first big-budget Hollywood film to tackle the medical, political, and social issues of AIDS. Tom Hanks, in his first Academy Award-winning performance, plays Andrew Beckett, a talented lawyer at a stodgy Philadelphia law firm. The homosexual Andrew has contracted AIDS but fears informing his firm about the disease. The firm’s senior partner, Charles Wheeler (Jason Robards), assigns Andrew a case involving their most important client. Andrew begins diligently working on the case, but soon the lesions associated with AIDS are visible on his face. Wheeler abruptly removes Andrew from the case and fires him from the firm. Andrew believes he has been fired because of his illness and plans to fight the firm in court. But because of the firm’s reputation, no lawyer in Philadelphia will risk handling his case. In desperation, Andrew hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), a black lawyer who advertises on television, mainly handling personal injury cases. Miller dislikes homosexuals but agrees to take the case for the money and exposure. As Miller prepares for the courtroom battle against one of the law firm’s key litigators, Belinda Conine (Mary Steenburgen), Miller begins to realize the discrimination practiced against Andrew is no different from the discrimination Miller himself has to battle against. The cast also includes Antonio Banderas as Andrew’s partner, Joanne Woodward as Andrew’s mother, and Stephanie Roth as Joe’s wife.
Monster’s Ball producer Lee Daniels follows up his 2005 directorial debut, Shadowboxer, with this adaptation of author Sapphire’s best-selling novel about an overweight, illiterate African-American teen from Harlem who discovers an alternate path in life after she begins attending a new school. Clareece “Precious” Jones is only a teenager, yet she’s about to give birth to her second child. Unable to read or write, Clareece shows little prospect for the future until discovering that she has been accepted into an alternative school. There, with a little help from a sympathetic teacher (Paula Patton) and a kindly nurse (Lenny Kravitiz), the young girl receives something that most teens never get -- a chance to start over. Mo’nique co-stars in an inspirational drama featuring the debut performance of screen newcomer Gabourey “Gabbie” Sidibe.
The passion to create and the courage to love are the ties that bind a group of struggling artists in Lower Manhattan in 1990 as they deal with friendship, life, and death in the shadow of AIDS. Jonathan Larson’s Tony-winning Broadway hit, which shifted the story of “La Boheme” from 1890s Paris, makes the leap to the screen in this vibrant musical. Original stage stars Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp are joined by Rosario Dawson and Tracie Thoms.
A impoverished young mother with few creature comforts but an unbreakable spirit determined to see that her growing daughter receives an education after suffering a crippling setback in this affecting drama from director Darrell James Roodt. Yesterday’s family is poor, and despite the daily toil suffered by her husband in the mines of Johannesburg, she still manages to maintain a bright outlook on life thanks to her energetic seven-year-old daughter, Beauty. Upon falling ill, Yesterday is diagnosed with AIDS and her already harsh life appears to take a turn for the worse. Though Yesterday herself never received an education, the revelation of her declining condition inspires the young mother to cling to life so that she may see her growing daughter attend her first day of classes and die knowing that there is hope for a better life.