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
NBC spent two years adapting the book for television, but ultimately withdrew from the project in 1989, allowing HBO to pick up the rights. Contrary to popular belief, NBC dropped the project not because of its controversial subject matter, but because the book's structure didn't work as a 4-hour, 2-night miniseries. In March 1994, six months after its debut on HBO, NBC reran it, edited to fit a two-hour time slot. See more »
The English subtitle translation of the French sequences contains errors. Most are minor, such as the English subtitles saying patients were afraid to come to a French hospital when the actual French said they were refusing to come, but in the first hospital scene, the doctor actually talks about "plaques" rather than "warts" as the subtitles indicated; plaques are the classic presentation of Kaposi's sarcoma. See more »
Blood Bank executive:
Is the CDC seriously suggesting that the blood industry spends $100M a year to use the test for the wrong disease because we have a handful of transfusion fatalities and eight dead hemophiliacs?
Dr. Don Francis:
How many dead hemophiliacs do you need? How many people have to die to make it cost effecient for you people to do something about it? A hundred? A thousand? Give us a number so we won't annoy you again until the amount of money you begin spending on lawsuits make it more profitable for you to save ...
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And The Band Played On is an extremely powerful movie. This movie should be required viewing in any high school. The fact that it took so incredibly long for the then higher powers to admit to the existence of AIDS is stunning and sad. The performances throughout the movie were moving and effective. I thought that Sir Ian McKellan and Richard Gere represented respectfully the signs of strength and fear.
I was also disheartened to learn that throughout this tragedy, there were individuals who might have been more concerned with helping and protecting their own reputation and agenda as well as accepting the credit for their work in breaking down point by point the disease known as AIDS. Alan Alda as Dr. Gallo was fascinating. In fact all of the performances from Matthew Modine and Richard Gere to Steve Martin and BD Wong were great. The most important thing here though is the history of this disease and the hope that we can learn from it.
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