Voices From the Front

1991 | Abuse / Activism / AIDS/HIV / American Studies / Documentary / Health/Medicine / Media Studies / Social Issues | 90m | USA
Directors: Testing the Limits

New York City, a distraught activist confronts the mayor with a story of a friend who languished on a cot in an emergency room hallway for nine days, only to die 48 hours after leaving the hospital. In 1988, thousands of activists hold the Food and Drug Administration under siege, demanding speedier drug approval. In 1990 AIDS activists converge on the National Institute of Health, calling for a more equitable clinical trial system and expanded research into new drugs and treatment. Voices From the Front, the first feature-length documentary on AIDS activism in America, makes clear the emotional and political effects of community activism using the voices of those directly engaged. It is a powerful distillation of pictures and words from events organized to change public consciousness, expose the failure of the health care systems, and challenge government inaction and neglect concerning AIDS.

Reviews and Awards

“Voices From the Front is impatient, energetic, terrifically articulate…the film demonstrates that informed, committed citizens can indeed make a difference.” — Vincent Canby, The New York Times

“A biting indictment of current medical conditions.” — Leslie Camhl, Village Voice

“When this feature appeared in 1991, it was an urgent portrait of a contemporary crisis; today it is an invaluable document of the stakes and strategies of AIDS activism in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Tightly edited with footage from demonstrations, press coverage and interviews, this video offers a complex but articulate analysis of such continuing issues as insufficient health care and discrimination. This is essential viewing for younger audiences who have grown up in a post-AIDS world and who likely have no recollection of the government’s unconscionable disregard for people with AIDS or of ACT UP’s incredible efforts. — Lucas Hilderbrand, film and media scholar, University of Southern California