From Philadelphia to 120 Bpm: the changing face of Aids in film

Rampant homophobia in the 80s meant that film-makers were reluctant to vent their anger at indifference to the HIV/Aids crisis.

Not any more.

But should directors of the past have been braver?From the first films made about the crisis in the mid-80s to recent historical dramas charting the epidemic, cinema has given us many noble dramas about Aids, the vast majority of which focus on gay men.

Precious (2009) is a notable exception.

But too many lack the vital ingredient that makes Robin Campillo’s 120 Bpm a modern classic: anger.The first feature film to depict Aids was Buddies (1985), a low-budget chamber piece by Arthur J Bressan Jr, a former gay porn film-maker, who died of an Aids-related illness in 1987.

The film, about a dying man and his “buddy” – someone who provides companionship and care to people with HIV and Aids – sensitively merges the political and the personal.

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