A three-paneled look at the worldwide AIDS crisis: in Montreal, a porn actor (Ashmore) schemes to pass his mandatory blood test; a young nun (Sevigny) makes a personal sacrifice for the benefit of a South African village; in rural China, a black market operative (Liu) posing as a goverment-sanctioned blood drawer jeopardizes an entire village's safety.
Sister Hilde narrates three separates stories, each directly concerning the AIDS crisis. From a Montréal based order, Sister Hilde, Sister Mary and Clara, a novice, have just arrived in Africa to work as nurses in a plantation's medical center. They learn that legend there has it that having sex with a virgin will transfer infection out from oneself. Because of this legend, an infant girl is raped. Clara, who also learns the main cause of the virus' spread within the plantation, does whatever she can to ensure that Hallyday, the plantation owner, flexes his economic power to right the wrongs on the plantation. Back in Montréal, a porn actor named Denys has been cheating on his mandatory monthly HIV tests, using his father's blood to pass as his own. As he believes he has been exposed to the virus, the negative results will allow him to continue working. When he is caught, his mother, Olive, learns the hard way of her son's true HIV status and his occupation, and devises a strategy for... Written by
I was fortunate to see the director's cut of this film at the DC Filmfest. The audience was privileged to have the director, Thom Fitzgerald, make an unannounced visit and stay for questions afterwards.
3 Needles is three separate stories how AIDS spread in China, Africa, and the United States.
I found it a bit confusing to begin with some African scenes and then jump to the China story. I think this was to allow the narrator to introduce and to end the movie. The narrator was Olympia Dukakis and she had a part in the African story.
Lucy Liu led an outstanding cast in the story of its spread to China. Until this film, I did not realize that China had an AIDS epidemic. The movie shows how AIDS was spread through blood collection stations throughout rural China. China's vast rural population was perfect for exploitation. They were isolated; they needed the money; it took a long time to associate entire villages dying with the helpful blood collector.
The US story is somewhat familiar to us. A male porn star spreads it knowingly due to his greed. What makes this story unique is how Stockard Channing handles the discovery that her son is not only a porn star, but is dying. She educates herself on the disease and discovers a breed of vultures buying up the insurance policies of AIDS victims (viaticum companies) hedging their bets that purchasing a $2M policy for $1M will double their investment. She sets out to give herself AIDS and sell her insurance policy. What she does with the proceeds is the controversial part.
The African story reveals the director's Roman Catholic roots. One wishes that Sandra Oh had a larger part in this story. Chloe Sevigny is wonderful as a dedicated nun who chooses to submit to the local plantation owner (sorry, don't remember the African name for plantation) in order to get revenge / punishment on an adult male who has raped a young young virginal child in order to rid himself of the AIDS virus. As with the others, this story shows the many facets of this disease and the difficulty in assigning blame for its spread or for how people handle it.
Each of the stories has an odd element of humor to it. At times, I found it inappropriate for the subject, but perhaps that is also the message: we can laugh despite the hardships. I saw the director's cut, I wonder if this will be removed / downplayed in the cut that's released.
The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping in both Asia and Africa. The US scenes manage to show a true grit feeling.
Kudos to the director for assembling a really outstanding set of actors. Outstanding performances from Lucy Liu, the father-daughter team from the China story and Ian Roberts (the plantation owner).
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