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We Were Here at Sundance

by Sydney Levine
January 19, 2011 8:00 AM
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An Interview with David Weissman
Sundance official 'Meet the Fillmmaker'

WE WERE HERE is a powerful new documentary that takes a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco in 1981 and at a community that came together to respond to the crisis with love, compassion, and determination.

It screens at the Broadway Centre Cinemas V in Salt Lake City at 3:45pm on Sunday, Jan. 23 as part of the Sundance Film Festival, where it will show five additonal times in Park City as part of the Documentary Competition.

This is a film which reaches out and touches the audience without any banging on the drum. It leaves people feeling inspired and validated. Seeing how the community rose to the occasion allows the audience to share their power to act, to get through the storm and to come out on the other side with a greater sense of direction and engagement.

Prompted by the lessons to be learned from the powerful stories brought to life by the film, the Utah AIDS Foundation, Utah Pride Center, and a coalition of community organizations are hosting a post-screening community dialogue to help galvanize public interest and support for reinvigorating the response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Utah and beyond.

The event takes place at 6:00pm, just steps from the cinema, at The Tabernacle Social Club, 201 East 300 South. The event is free and open to the public and will feature conversation with the film's director, David Weissman, Utah AIDS Foundation director and SLC Council member, Stan Penfold, and representatives from the Utah Pride Center's HIV Prevention and Youth programs. The SLC event was organized by Joe Wilson and Dean Hamer from QWaves who created an extraordinary outreach campaign for their film, Out in the Silence. For more information, contact Josh Newbury at the Utah AIDS Foundation. T: 801-487-2323 E: josh.newbury AT utahaids.org

"The film was finished a mere 10 days ago, but during test screenings the younger gay men in the audience who know very little of this history were eager to spread the word of the film to their friends. We think this could be an important aspect of the film that will carry far beyond even the festival. Every festival screening will be followed by conversations with the audience which seems eager to share their own stories of having been touched in some way by the AIDS epidemic and then by the film itself. It also helps address the concern of the filmmakers that, because so many fewer people are dying of AIDs, the transmission rate is still alarmingly high and there is a need for increased awareness. Despite the ongoing education about the virus, there is still a sense of ignorance about the disease."

David goes on to say,

"I think there are lessons, and inspiration, in this film for everyone. There is a pretty strong likelihood that each of us will be confronted with some unexpected crises in our lives – possibly enormous ones. I think that the individuals in the film are inspiring reminders that we do have inner resources that we can access, and that in creating community we can do beautiful things under terrible circumstances."



During its theatrical run, social media will continue to provide an opportunity to discuss the film and the experiences of anyone wanting to share on the film’s Facebook page. Orly Ravid and Jeffrey Winters’ Film Collaborative is serving as distribution consultants for the film and handling festival outreach. Jonathan Dana serves as worldwide producers rep.


ABOUT THE FILM:
WE WERE HERE is the first documentary to take a deep and reflective look back at the arrival and impact of AIDS which was called The Gay Plague in the early 198s in San Francisco. It explores how the City’s inhabitants were affected by, and how they responded to, that calamitous epidemic. It illuminates the profound personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed. Though a San Francisco-based story, WE WERE HERE extends beyond San Francisco and beyond AIDS itself. It speaks to our capacity as individuals to rise to the occasion, and to the incredible power of a community coming together with love, compassion, and determination.

2011 marks 30 years since AIDS descended. Like an unrelenting hurricane, the epidemic roiled San Francisco for two decades and only began granting some reprieve with medical advancements in the late 90s. The death years of AIDS left the City ravaged and exhausted, yet, as in most of the developed world, the worst seems past. As David Weissman says in his interview, for survivors, telling the story is analogous to telling the stories of the Holocaust, whose stories he as a child was accustomed to hearing. The need to be witness and to testify are crucial for healing society and individuals.


Filmmakers David Weissman and Bill Weber co-directed the 2001 documentary, THE COCKETTES, chronicling San Francisco’s legendary theater troupe of hippies and drag queens, 1969 – 1972. WE WERE HERE revisits San Francisco a decade later, as its flourishing gay community is hit with an unimaginable disaster.

David Weissman — producer, director
Active in San Francisco’s indie film scene since the mid-1980's, David is best known as the producer/co-director of the feature-length documentary, THE COCKETTES. Recipient of the LA Film Critics Award as Best Documentary of 2002, THE COCKETTES premiered at Sundance, was released theatrically, and was licensed for broadcast by The Sundance Channel, Logo, and the BBC. David was the first recipient in 1990 of the Sundance Institute/Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers.

Bill Weber — editor/ co-director
Bill shifted into documentaries after more than 20 years as a high-end editor of groundbreaking commercials and music videos. Beginning with THE COCKETTES (co-director/ editor) Bill’s documentary credits include the HBO films LAST LETTERS HOME (Emmy nominated), THE FINAL INCH (Academy Award nominated), and THE ALZHEIMERS PROJECT. Bill also edited the 2007 Telluride-premiere documentary-feature HATS OFF, and for The History Channel Bill edited SEX IN 69 and the Emmy-winning GOLD RUSH.

P&I Screening: Saturday, January 22 , 7:30 p.m.
Holiday Village Cinema II
Contact Jonathan Dana, 310-717-1244 cel jdana46 AT aol.com

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