This is the story of the first years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and focuses on three key elements. Dr. Don Francis, an immunologist with experience in eradicating smallpox and containing the Ebola virus, joins the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to try and understand just what this disease is. They also have deal with bureaucracy and a government that doesn't seem to care. The gay community in San Francisco is divided on the nature of the disease but also what should be done about it. Finally, the film deals with the rivalry between Dr. Robert Gallo, the American virologist who previously discovered the first retrovirus and his French counterpart at the Pasteur Institute, Dr. Luc Montagnier, that led to disputed claims about who was first to identify the AIDS virus. Written by
HBO was beginning to choose projects other networks were afraid to touch. And the Band Played On is one of their all time top ten. The actors who participated in this film were only paid scale, and not a lot of money was used, but the message is the strongest. I viewed this on its premiere and couldn't sleep afterward. I view it more these days since I've had many friends die of "red tape" of AIDS.
According to this film based in Randy's book, what bothers me the most was the opportunities that existed by several people to catch this disease at various stages and it just wasn't done. Sure the government played its part, but so did commerce, so did vanity and so did the need for humans to be sexual beings.
Since the film I've read about the deaths of many as well as experienced deaths myself. One thing that stands out is "Patient Zero". The family of this gentleman has fought long and hard for that stigma to be erased. As the character says in the film: "If I got it, then someone gave it to me". I do understand terms that mark things as "the beginning" of the identified problem but with this film you will know there was a beginning BEFORE THAT beginning. Where it lies is still a mystery.
On the other hand if America could have shared information with other countries and paid closer attention we could have fought this is a world problem before it got to the point of where it did. But America was too busy allocating more money to military defense than to the medical defense.
America had discoverable AIDS cases as far back as the 1950's, but it didn't reach total epidemic status until the late 1970's early 1980's. This film brings that information out. It also brings out the information that this disease, although concentrated in the gay community, had no specific target, anyone could/would get it. The people in my life were not all homosexual who contracted the disease but a few were just receivers of blood transfusions. At the time they received the blood, the test was not developed for screening. Just like the film points out, they too (family, friends, associates) suffered.
There is so much to grab in this film, one or two viewings isn't enough. One or two pointed fingers is not the answer. It is equally as sad that almost 10 years later, I am writing this review and the band is still playing. It was my prayer that this would not be so.
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