World AIDS Day – reflections in the movies

Film can be pure entertainment, but it can also be a way for us to learn about our history, examine complicated issues, sit with our emotions and work for the future. Today, on World Aids Day, here are three recommendations of films to watch as we commemorate those who have died and work to support those who are living with HIV, uniting to fight the disease globally.

We Were Here is a powerful documentary charting the effects of the disease in San Francisco’s gay community. The film is built around testimony from five men and women who experienced those years firsthand: Guy Clark, a flowerseller in the Castro; nurse Eileen Glutzer; Paul Boneberg, who founded Mobilization Against Aids; Ed Wolf, a counsellor; and HIV-positive artist Daniel Goldstein. In the late 1970s San Francisco was a haven for young queer people escaping convention and searching for their chosen family. But as the disease takes hold, the community rallies and volunteers to support its own. A film to witness the truth, to make you cry, but to rally us all to fight for the future.
Available on Peccadillo Player, Amazon and itunes

120 BPM takes a fictional approach to tell the story of the activism of members of ACT UP in Paris in the early 1990s, as they lobbied for legislation, research and treatment for people with HIV/AIDS. We see the group through new recruit Nathan’s eyes as he joins their debates and falls for one of the group’s leading lights. It’s an important historical document that puts the viewer at the heart of the messy, angry and argumentative group of men and women desperate to be heard and to make vital change – but it is also an urgent love story and a rallying cry for beauty, love, sex and dancing when you are angry, scared or ill.
Available on Amazon and itunes

Théo & Hugo brings us up to the 2010s and the effects of the virus as they are navigated by two young men in Paris. The eponymous pair meet in a sex club as they enjoy multiple encounters with nameless strangers, and the film’s first 15 minutes revel wordlessly in sex and bodies and carnal pleasure. But our protagonists are drawn magnetically to each other and head out into the early hours of a Paris morning, only to realise that Théo failed to use a condom and Hugo is HIV+, though with an undetectable viral load. They head straight to the hospital and the film pivots to a gentle love story. Beautifully crafted, the film treads the careful line between sex and desire, medical needs, the first flush of love and Paris in the small, quiet hours when few see it.
Available on Peccadillo Player and BFI Player


  • I would love to see all these films. I grew up into adulthood in Minneapolis , and watched in horror and disbelief in the 80s and 90s as AIDS just about wiped out an entire generation of gay men and women . I spent so much time at the bars and baths but was saved. I 🙏 prayed to GOD 🙏 every day to take away this horrific disease.

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