Fight Back, Fight AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP

2002-2008 | Activism / AIDS/HIV / Documentary / Health/Medicine / Social Issues | 75m | USA
Directors: James Wentzy

James Wentzy's in-your-face Fight Back, Fight AIDS is a compilation of footage documenting the first ACT UP meeting in 1987 on New York City’s Wall Street and continues to 2002. Amateur video recording—at the demonstration level and from the private, behind-the-scenes meetings and training—reveals the astonishing camaraderie that united a politically enraged community, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or gender.

Recognizable faces among the hundreds of ACT UP activists, timelessly captured over the 15 years of footage, are likely to be moving. Particularly noteworthy is seeing activist and author Vito Russo issue a speech equating AIDS to war then demanding to know how the two landscapes differ.

Whether or not your own political views are aligned with ACT UP’s today, this infinitely relevant political group taught us to fight back against government complacency, to protest the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs, and to simply ask others, “Where is your rage?”

Reviews and Awards

Official Selection, Berlinale Panorama

“A whole generation of community leaders lost to AIDS are not present to tell our youth about their struggles, so it is important for us to pass along their message of struggle and hope. Youth must believe they can own their health, and wish to do so before any messages about safer sex and HIV prevention are effective. Action starts with self, and I use the film Fight Back, Fight AIDS to educate youth about the struggles of those who went before them, as well as to inspire today's youth to find their own struggles and take action!”—Clayton Robbins, Prevention Case Worker, Saint Louis Effort for AIDS

“[ Fight Back, Fights AIDS: 15 Years of ACT UP ] suggests the social and personal dimensions of ACT UP by portraying meetings, songs, pep talks, chants, and demonstrations; these moments reflect ACT UP's history of actions and queer community-building. Video footage of AIDS activism, which records not only political events but also the passion and personal connections behind them, allows effective historical access for subsequent generations of queers and activists … Fight Back, Fight AIDS … operates as an effective archive of both AIDS activists’ ingenuity and the technology used to document it. Members of ACT UP frequently used the most up-to-date video equipment by charging cameras to their credit cards and then returning them for refunds after use at demonstrations … Fight Back, Fight AIDS not only records a social movement but also regenerates it.—Lucas Hilderbrand (Retroactivism, from GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Duke University Press)