Five residents of San Francisco who lived through the onslaught of AIDS in the late 1970s and 1980s tell their stories of illness, loss, and activism. Goldstein, infected with the virus, dropped out of a drug study, only to see every other participant die. Glutzer, a nurse, talks about the grossly inadequate response of the medical establishment. Wolf describes his work as a volunteer working with the afflicted. Finally, Boneberg discusses the grass roots efforts that led to more effective, meaningful action, and eventually, effective treatment for the disease.
These eloquent survivors manage to put a human face on the most devastating epidemic of the past century. Directors Weissman and Weber depict life in the Castro before AIDS as a gay paradise; the effect is haunting when those scenes of happiness and liberation give way to ominous press reports concerning “a mysterious virus targeting gay men,” and, all too suddenly, hundreds of obituaries in the local papers. The shamefully inept and unsympathetic political response gets addressed, but it’s the human stories that evoke those devastating years with heartrending clarity.