World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988. ( World AIDS Day)
One of the first means of raising AIDS awareness was of course, by means of television. In fact, I remember that the first time I’d heard about this disease was while I was watching “St. Elsewhere”, a medical series that was running on NBC. It was 1986 and AIDS was in full bloom, but very few dared to talk about. At least, not on the mainstream media. A year earlier, Rock Hudson had died, an event that shook to the core the idea that AIDS could happen only to …”them”, but still, AIDS and AIDS related topics were rarely featured on the conservative television screen of the 1980s. As I was saying, one of the first major characters that “came out” as HIV positive or AIDS stricken was Dr. Robert Caldwell (Mark Harmon), a womanizing doctor on “St. Elsewhere.” I imagine that at the time the showrunners had difficulties bringing onto the small screen such a character, especially since the audience associated AIDS only to homosexuals and drug addicts. Dr. Robert Caldwell was the first heterosexual character that had AIDS, the first leading man that died of AIDS, and thus marked an exceptional moment in television.
Cinema is often seen as the upper class medium for expressing ideas and ideals, but as I see it, television was always way more revolutionary in dealing with difficult subjects, subjects very few wanted to discuss or watch. And yet, against all odds, there were, during the ’80s some and the ’90s a few AIDS related TV Movies that paved the way to the exceptional television moments of today, and I’m referring here to “Angels in America” “The Normal Heart” which I consider from a artistically point of view “creme de la creme”.
I give you today my list of TV Movies, stories of life that impressed me over the years, and that had their enormous contribution to the AIDS awareness worldwide.
To all those, who lost the AIDS battles, may your soul find peace. Aways and forever.
An Early Frost (1985)
Considered one of the first movies in the world to present the aftermath of AIDS. Aidan Quinn played the main part, that of a San Francisco closeted lawyer who gets ill and finds out that he has AIDS. Apart from the illness itself, he must tell his parents that he’s homosexual as well. A very touching story. I’ve seen it recently, and I still think it hold value and relevance due to the amazing performance by Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazarra and Aidan Quinn. The script was written by none other than Ron Cowen and Daniel Lippman, who adapted the American version of Queer as Folk in 2000.
Longtime Companion (1989)
The first theatrical film to deal with the subject of AIDS, from the first cases to the AIDS plague of the late ’80s. The final scene is still haunting me, as the surviving friends imagine a reunion with all their lost friends who lost the battle to the cruel disease. Touching performances by Campbell Scott, Bruce Davison, Mary Louise Parker.
Our Sons (1991)
Julie Andrews, Ann Margret, Hugh Grant and Zeljko Ivanek star in this TV movie about two (homophobic) mothers with gay sons ( one of them dying of AIDS) who must come to terms with the imminent death of one of them and their sons’ homosexuality. Julie Andrews is the wealthy mother of Hugh Grants’ character, while Ann Margret is a waitress who hasn’t spoken in years to her son. One of the best TV Movies ever made.
And Then There Was One (1994)
Made for Lifetime TV, And Then There Was One (quite unfortunate title, I might say) details the story of a family of three that have to deal with the fact that they are all HIV positive. A story of compassion, of forgiveness, of human spirit. Amy Madigan and Dennis Boutsikaris star in this heart-wrenching drama.
Unfortunately, there is no video material on Youtube.
Fatal Love/Something to Live for: The Alison Gertz Story (1992)
The story of the first (official) heterosexual woman to die of AIDS. Alison Gertz, a self-assured Manhattan girl contracts AIDS after a brief relationship and becomes an activist and educator in a time when people were afraid to touch each other for fear of contracting AIDS. Molly Ringwald stars in this made for TV film.
A Place for Annie
Made for Hallmark Movie. Annie is an HIV positive baby that is taken into foster care by Susan (Sissy Spacek). One year later when she decides to legally adopt the baby, the mother reappears and reclaims her daughter. A very young Mary Louise Parker gives a poignant performance of a drug addict who abandoned her baby.