November 15, 2012
Anger is a natural. For some of us, it is how we tap into our sadness, deal with our frustration, and it's what gets some of us up in the morning. When dealing with HIV, anger is part of life: anger with doctors who don't listen, first dates that never call back, service providers supplying endless paperwork, politicians that lie, medications with side effects, a media that ignores HIV, and employers who discriminate. Yet with all this fuel for the fire, we live in a culture where we often try to suppress each other's anger by telling everyone to calm down all the time. So what are we supposed to do with all of our anger?
United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, the film Visual AIDS is distributing for 2012's Day With(out) Art, has a suggestion: USE IT! SHARE IT! CHANGE THE WORLD!
United in Anger is a 93-minute documentary that uses footage from activist demonstrations, planning meetings, and intimate interviews to tell the story of an influential AIDS activist group that succeeded in getting people access to drugs faster, including women in the definition of HIV, and helping to make people more aware of HIV/AIDS when both the media and government were doing nothing. As the film shows, a key to ACT UP's success was channeling a group of people's anger into action, and directing that anger at institutions and individuals that were harming them.
While watching the film, advice on how to deal with anger adds up. As much as this is a film about the past, it is a lesson in how to deal with the present and the future. As we know, AIDS is not over and neither is our activism. Our anger continues to have purpose.
Leading up to Day With(out) Art, Visual AIDS created a tumblr called Wisdom in Being United In Anger that uses images and quotes from the film as well as timeline stills, screen shots of touching moments, and memorials to those who passed away. We wanted to share the wisdom in being united in anger.
Throughout the film, important dates in ACT UP's history are highlighted.
These dates serve as a reminder of how much was going on in terms of activism as friends and loved ones were also fighting for their lives.
Throughout the film, when people who have passed away speak, their birth and death dates appear on the screen.
These dates illustrate how young many people were when they died, and how brave they were.
The film illustrates how important personal expression was to the ACT UP process. People spoke truth to power, and actions came from there.
Many ACT UP members had a long history of activism and brought their experiences with them.
While others were new to direct action, they learned a lot along the way.
Important to ACT UP was having clear and achievable goals.
Community and safety were also important considerations to ACT UP.
Through behind-the-scenes-footage, the film shows the often-messy process of activism.
Within ACT UP there were differences of opinion, and often a lag in common understanding. As the film illustrates, this made for a complex, volatile, and rich movement.
A message of the film is that together, we can make a difference, and feel less alone.