Voices From the Front
1992, NR, 90 min. Directed by Robyn Hutt, Sandra Elgear, David Meieran.
REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., June 19, 1992
I think my first job here is to tell you why you should see another documentary about AIDS, because regardless of how good I say it is, a great many of you will just simply say, “no thanks, I've seen enough.” God yes, haven't we all, but Voices From the Front provides another, broader and more inclusive point of view. It's a war, says the movie, and though it spends a great deal of time focusing on the heroes of that war, members of ACT UP, the PWA coalition, related activist groups like Queer Nation, as well as brave and determined individuals, its goal is to involve the viewer in the fight as well. It's hardly coincidence, says this movie, that people are starving in the streets, crack is preying on a hardcore underclass of people, AIDS research is underfunded and hamstrung by idiots, and that sick people cannot afford health care. Rather, these are the results of more than a decade of governmental hostility toward social programs that are now desperately needed. The film points out that during the last decade in New York over 50 hospitals have been closed, even as the casualties mount in the war against drugs and AIDS claims more victims. Without increased social programs, how are we going to handle these problems? As one woman says in the film, “the insurance companies can't do it or they'd be piss-poor capitalists.” By documenting successful actions staged by the PWA coalition and ACT UP -- the well-publicized demonstrations against the headquarters of the FDA and the NIH or the New York Stock Exchange, for instance -- Voices offers a plan and a strategy for more people to get involved. Successful demonstrations focused on identifiable and winnable goals. Other tactics documented by the film are efforts to get needles and bleach kits out on the streets and underground drug networks for AIDS patients who need alternative forms of treatment. As a chronicle of victories, Voices From the Front is heartening; yet many of these voices have already been silenced by AIDS. My only criticism is that Voices From the Front peaks a little early. We're convinced early on, but as the body count rises and the atrocities mount, it threatens to drop us back into debilitating despair. Finally though, it pulls out in time. The message is to do something and I think many of the people who see this film will. Until we win, we won't have heard or seen nearly enough and what's at stake is nothing less than control over our government and our lives.