Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Moving Movie...

How easy it is to forget in 2013 America what it was like for people
diagnosed HIV-positive in the 1980s, when the epidemic was seen
as a "gay" disease...when so littlewas known and understood that
other people would not even touch a person with AIDS...when the
diagnosis was a death sentence, at least in the eyes of the medical
community.

I spent two hours this afternoon at the Aperture Cinema in W-S,
absorbed in a film entitled "Dallas Buyer's Club" and was both
enthralled by the story and enraptured by the performances of
the two main actors: Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. The
true story of Texan, Ron Woodroof, the official film website has
this synopsis of the movie's story:

A son of Texas, Ron Woodroof is an electrician and rodeo cowboy. In 1985,
he is well into an unexamined existence with a devil-may-care lifestyle
(And incredibly dangerous and self-destructive one, I might add.) Suddenly,
Ron is blindsided by being diagnosed as H.I.V.-positive and given 30 days
to live. Yet he will not, and does not, accept a death sentence.

His crash course of research reveals a lack of approved treatments and
medications in the U.S., so Ron crosses the border into Mexico. There,
he learns about alternative treatments and begins smuggling them into
the U.S., challenging the medical and scientific community including his
concerned physician, Dr. Eve Saks (Screen Actors Guild Award winner
Jennifer Garner).
 
An outsider to the gay community, Ron finds an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS
patient Rayon (Gotham Independent Film Award winner Jared Leto), a
transsexual who shares Ron’s lust for life. Rayon also shares Ron’s
entrepreneurial spirit: seeking to avoid government sanctions against
selling non-approved medicines and supplements, they establish a
“buyers club,” where H.I.V.-positive people pay monthly dues for access
to the newly acquired supplies. Deep in the heart of Texas, Ron’s
pioneering underground collective beats loud and strong. With a growing 
community of friends and clients, Ron fights for dignity, education, and 
acceptance. In the years following his diagnosis, the embattled Lone Star
loner lives life to the fullest like never before.
 
Let me assure you that this summary only begins to scratch the
surface of this honest film, the story and characterizations not
"prettied up" by Hollywood but presented in gritty reality. And
the role of Big Pharma and the FDA is shown with no punches
pulled.
 
I simply cannot say enough about the characterizations by
McConaughey and Leto, both of whom are very handsome men,
Hollywood "heartthrobs", to be sure, and both of whom- in
pursuit of reality and honesty in their roles- lost vast amounts
of weight, throwing themselves quite completely into being the
characters they portrayed.
 
Having played a small role in Triad Health Project, the AIDS
ministry in Guilford County, NC, from 1990-1995, I saw first-
hand the ways in which people with AIDS were treated, even
then. And I will never forget, during one healing service which
another area pastor and I conducted, the tears shed by one
tall, handsome young man when we laid our hands on his head
to bless and pray for him. He told me after the service that
this was the first time a minister had touched him since his
diagnosis. We lost this young man, as we did so many at that
time, but thankfully, so many more are living long years with
successful treatment, with AIDS now considered more of a
chronic disease here in the United States.
 
However, in so many of the emerging nations in Africa, India, 
southeast Asia, AIDS is still a disease of epidemic proportions,
with treatment available only to a low percentage of those
affected. And lack of education and understanding about the
means of transmission, as well as in-grained cultural norms
and mores and gender roles make life difficult for those suffering
from the disease. The work is not yet finished; there is still much
to be done.
 
I was reminded of this once again today as I sat in a darkened
theater in Winston-Salem, transfixed as only a well-written,
well-directed, well-acted film can do. I was reminded, too,
that the most unlikely persons can often accomplish the most
amazing things- and not always for altruistic reasons...was
reminded of the importance of withholding judgment of others,
instead celebrating the fact that WE ARE ALL ONE...
interconnected... interrelated...sisters and brothers in the
family of humanity...was reminded, too, of the POWER OF ONE,
when that "one" dares to be and do all that he or she can for the
benefit of others. A well-spent afternoon, indeed...

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