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People Like Us: Making 'Philadelphia' (2003)

| Documentary | Video
10 years after the release of "Philadelphia", director Jonathan Demme, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and others discuss about the making of that film and it's important legacy through the ... See full summary »

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10 years after the release of "Philadelphia", director Jonathan Demme, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and others discuss about the making of that film and it's important legacy through the years of being the first mainstream Hollywood film about dealing with the topic of Aids, revealing its impact on culture and society. Cast and crew talk about the inception of the project, the making of it and curious stories about one of the greatest hits of 1993. Written by Rodrigo Amaro

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This documentary is featured on the 2-Disc Anniversary Edition DVD for Philadelphia (1993). See more »

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References The Mambo Kings (1992) See more »

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Remembering "Philadelphia" and its legacy
26 June 2016 | by (São Paulo, Brazil) – See all my reviews

This review comes with a few months of delay. I could have sworn that I'd written something about it way back in time but checking the page again I've noticed there were no reviews on it, and I was like "What? Where's my thoughts on it?" Probably kept thinking so much about writing it that I might have forgotten. Anyway, here comes...with the best I can remember.

A decade after the release of "Philadelphia" cast and crew from that movie made this bonus material documentary for the movie in which they reveal the making of the movie and the impact it had on society back in 1993. We have Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Jonathan Demme, Antonio Banders and others sharing their experiences about what would become Hollywood's film landmark about AIDS, presented to a mainstream audience. We don't need to go back and say that this was THE movie that brought attention to the topic and the huge hit it was, awards and Oscars and such, even though there were other films about the topic made from 1980's and on ("Longtime Companion" was also nominated for an Oscar but who saw it besides the target audience?). Everyone involved discuss how controversial the ideas explored could have been - it deals with race issues, gay issues, AIDS, homophobia, family relations, legal process - and Hanks/Andrew Beckett story was taken from a real case that actually ended quite different from the movie (search for Geoffrey Bowers) and the deceased family even sued the film's producers from using plenty of Bowers events into the movie without giving him credit

  • the documentary doesn't discuss this, and the suit was resolved


through a deal with the family.

I liked this movie in the way everybody seems honest about talking about the project, their expectations and motivations in going with the theme, hugely important to be dealt and to be presented to the mass audiences, still prejudiced and biased about HIV/AIDS and the people living with it, and the movie certainly brought the topic to the table of many families and people out there and it's a reference in a way - but 1993 gave us also two other films on the issue, "And the Band Played On" and the documentary "The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter", great projects but under the radar of most people. Demme and company discuss matters of production, what they knew about the disease and who they knew who had it, they talk about many actors who had AIDS and had bit parts in the film and Ron Vawter's casting incident, one of the bravest fights ever taken by a director. Vawter was suffering from the disease and was cast in one important supporting role, he was a favorite actor of Demme - he starred in "The Silence of the Lambs". However, the studio was afraid of putting him in the movie in such notable role since they thought of him as a risk, he was insurable, could die at any moment to which Demme thought "Are we having this conversation about discrimination on a film that deals with this very same problem?" The director won the fight and now we all see Vawter playing one of the film "villains". I knew about this story before the documentary but it was nice to see Demme talking about it.

What I didn't know much and was quite surprised was the criticism after the movie's release. All positive reviews and such, as those behind the scenes flicks tend to go but they focused on the negative reaction they received from Larry Kramer - I read later on. A movie gets truly interesting when it focus on many different views and references. I have plenty of respect for Kramer for plenty of obvious reasons (being an anti-status quo in the gay community counts a heck of a lot) but I was disappointed with his negative review - I understand the criticism that "Philadelphia" is made to present a comfortable-for-straight view of gays, without display of affection and such (Demme talks about a deleted scene with Banderas and Hanks on bed having a small talk, scene cut from the final picture) and that particular story about discrimination and courtroom thing, but I don't dismiss Ron Nyswaner's script as being worthless or not valid. Considering the time, "Philadelphia" had to be presented that way to make people interested enough in seeing, and to find ways to dedicate themselves to the cause of AIDS as something that happened, was real and could be present among their families, friends, co-workers and all. A little bit of a positive and real portrayal of gays in the film would be enough in "Philadelphia" because dealing with 90% of homphobia spewed out of most of the characters was traumatizing and damaging enough to someone who saw this a kid. But sure, on the other hand, one may wonder: why on earth Hollywood couldn't thinking of adapting Kramer's genial play "The Normal Heart" into a film back then? We had to wait until 2014 when HBO moved on and made it - but they made the perfect film.

This ramble of opinions might have look sidetracked and not even close to my original thought review. But "People Like Us: Making Philadelphia" is something to be seen. Relevant, curious and filled with good and sad memories from the people involved. 9/10


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