Bill Weber and David Weissman (USA, World Showcase)
Tuesday, May 3, 9:30 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)
Thursday, May 5, 1:45 p.m.
The ROM Theatre (100 Queen’s Park)
In 2002, filmmakers Bill Weber and David Weissman made a bit of a splash in the film festival circuit with The Cockettes, a look at a drag performance group popular in San Francisco in the late 1960s and early ’70s. With We Were Here, the filmmakers return to San Francisco, jumping a decade down the line to look at the fallout of AIDS in the early ’80s.
For those of us possessing only a faint notion of the AIDS crisis in 1980s San Francisco (people got AIDS, people died), We Were Here is as shocking as it is enlightening. Shocking if you didn’t know that something like 50 per cent of San Francisco’s gay male population was infected with the then-named “gay cancer” by 1981, and enlightening if you only had no idea of how galvanizing the crisis was.
We Were Here analyzes how San Franciscans united both to care for AIDS victims and defend against AIDS panic in America: at one point, archival footage of Tom Brokaw claims that 48 per cent of Americans believed AIDS sufferers should be quarantined. The film is a bit glossy at times, blushing in its triumphant salutation of gay activism and skating over potential fissures in the movement (namely, gaps between the gay men’s and women’s interests). But given the subject matter, the intense emotions on display, and how the crisis worked to radically reform LGBT causes in America, it’s hard to fault Weber and Weissman for being a bit uncritical.