BFI Flare film recommendation: AIDS Diva

Today is the last day of BFI Flare and there are so many great films to watch – I can pretty well recommend any of them. So dive in and enjoy a final day of fabulous queer film – features and shorts, dramas and documentaries.

The film I want to talk about – AIDS Diva: The Legend of Connie Norman – is not the biggest or the best, but one which really spoke to me, probably because the threads of fighting a devastating virus and a lack of government care, trans oppression and police violence are still, tragically, as true today in the UK as they were in 1980s and 1990s Los Angeles.

Connie Norman was an activist and member of ACT Up in Los Angeles, a trans woman who was HIV positive, a former drag queen and drug addict. She was angry at her oppression and the government’s dilatory approach to tackling AIDS, but she was also funny, honest and humane. As one contributor says in the film, “Her rage never overtook her”.

The film highlights her spirit, her passion, her eloquence and her rage. And it touches on so much that is relevant today. When asked why break windows, why fight the cops, she points out the violence that she and her siblings have undergone over so many years and feels the odd broken window is nothing in comparison. Discussing gender, she points out that western patriarchal society deals in absolutes, but gender “is a spectrum, a bell curve – most people fall somewhere on that curve”.

Eternally relevant, this is a powerful story of one of the activists on whose shoulders we now stand. As she says – listen to the still voice inside and be yourself.

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