USA Film Fest opens with history of AIDS, Q&A

This week, I reviewed How to Survive a Plague, a fascinating and emotional documentary from journo-turned-filmmaker David France about the early days of the AIDS crisis, especially as it relates to the founding of ACT-UP. The screening kicks off this year’s 42nd annual USA Film Festival.

David France, pictured, will be in attendance, and yours truly will be moderating the question and answer session immediately following it, and bring your questions for David!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Today is the 25th anniversary of ACT UP, which was predated in Dallas by activists with G*U*T*S

Members of ACT UP hung a banner on the Cedar Springs Tollway overpass in 1991 for Pride Week.

AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP, turns 25 today. In the early days of the AIDS crisis, the group was known for civil disobedience to obtain funding for research into the epidemic and care for people with the disease. The group was created by playwright and activist Larry Kramer in New York.

In an ACT UP demonstration marking the anniversary today, JoeMyGod reports that nine members chained themselves to the entrance of the New York Stock Exchange at the opening bell.

Dallas had its own version of ACT UP prior to the formation of the national group. The Dallas version was known as G*U*T*S, or Gay Urban Truth Squad.

G*U*T*S staged a number of demonstrations including chalking outlines of bodies in front of Dallas City Hall — and outside the Convention Center as President George H.W. Bush spoke inside. An earlier protest involved staking an empty field on Carlisle Street with crosses honoring the fallen.

Another ACT UP demonstration in front of Parkland Hospital called on the facility to prescribe AZT, the only known drug at the time that helped combat the HIV virus. The hospital claimed it didn’t have enough money to give the drug to everyone who needed it.

In most cities, ACT UP demonstrators and those working with local governments to provide resources for people with AIDS were different people. Not in Dallas.

John Thomas, executive director of the AIDS Resource Center (now Resource Center Dallas), was among the ACT UP demonstrators at Parkland. He met with city and county officials and told them he thought he could call off the demonstrators if money was appropriated to get AZT to people who needed it.

When John got the money, John stopped demonstrating.

Most of the founders of G*U*T*S/ACT UP Dallas, including John Thomas, Bill Hunt, Mike Richards, Bill Nelson and Terry Tebedo, died of AIDS in the 1990s.

This evening, USA Film Festival screens How To Survive A Plague that includes the story of ACT UP. Arnold Wayne Jones moderates a discussion after the film.

—  David Taffet

Time running out to see artworks by landmark AIDS activist Donald Moffett

Donald Moffett, "Aluminum/J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building," 2004.

Donald Moffett was a founding member of “Gran Fury,” the arts affinity group of ACT UP New York that utilized art to bring attention to the AIDS crisis during the late 80′s and early 90′s (the group took it’s name from the NYC police department’s preferred brand of unmarked police cars, the Plymouth Gran Fury). The Extravagant Vein, the first compressive survey of Moffett’s work, leaves the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (5216 Montrose) this Sunday, January 8th.

From the Museum’s description of the exhibit:

“Donald Moffett: The Extravagant Vein will [provides] viewers with insight into the breadth and range of the artist’s practice over the past twenty years. As a painter, Moffett extends the traditional two-dimensional frame, converting the ordinariness of the flat plane into highly textured relief works with his signature oil paintings or into intricate illuminations by incorporating video projections onto the canvas. The subject matter of his paintings… are poetic, provocative, and even at times humorous.”

The exhibit is open Wed-Friday from 11 am – 7 pm and Sat-Sun from 11 am – 6 pm, admission is free.

—  admin