Writer, director and activist Robin Campillo brings us a uniquely vivid rendition of French sexual and political activism during the 1990s. Under François Mitterrand’s HIV-AIDS denying government, the audience is thrust into the lives and experiences of the French branch of the ACT UP movement. This group of campaigners passionately fight for the social acceptance of HIV-AIDS positive people and actively take charge against the pharmaceutical companies who hold back vital treatment for those with the disease.
At first, the film feels like a radical documentary. We gain entrance into ACT UP through the viewpoint of newcomer Nathan (Arnaud Valois) who is immediately drawn to the revolutionary and somewhat militant Sean (Nahuel Pérez Biscayart), a HIV positive man living and fighting for his right to survive. As the narrative develops, Campillo nudges us into a heart-wrenching drama through beautifully elaborate shots and unapologetically homosensual scenes. The director beautifully weaves the political and the personal, sex and the law.
In every act, sexual or not, there is an urgency which Campillo is so accurately able to depict. We wonder which character might be next, which effectively conveys the same type of fear that LGBT communities felt during the epidemic. While the film may have been a tad too long and in turn sacrificed a good ending for a better ending, the superimposition of sex and politics made every minute of this artwork worthwhile.
I urge you to see this – in cinemas or if you can find it during a wider release – support queer films and art and you won’t be disappointed.
— Words by Dylan Rowen.