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‘Commitment to Life’ documentary to explore HIV fight in Los Angeles

Los Angeles’ fight against HIV/AIDS will be explored in “Commitment to Life,” a feature length documentary that just started production.

Produced by APLA Health, the narrative will follow an intrepid group of AIDS+ activists, doctors, celebrities, and studio executives who changed the course of the epidemic, according to an announcement from APLA Health.

Jeffrey Schwarz (“I Am Divine,” “Tab Hunter: Confidential,” and “Boulevard! A Hollywood Story”) will direct “Commitment to Life.”

“As a filmmaker, I have told stories about the LGBTQ+ community through the lives of some of its trailblazers. But no story has the epic sweep, heart wrenching drama, and galvanizing emotion as that of the AIDS crisis in Los Angeles,” Schwarz said in a statement.

“It’s a story of how people from all walks of life came together to show love to the sick and the dying when our own government turned its back on them. It’s a story of how we organized and built critical infrastructure to take care of and protect each other,” he said. “It’s about how BIPOC communities who were disproportionately affected demanded to be seen and created their own institutions. It’s about how members of the Hollywood community used their privilege and access to power to raise money and fight the stigma associated with AIDS.

“It’s a story that has yet to be fully told, and it’s a film that demanded to be made,” Schwarz said.

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“Commitment to Life” will include first-person interviews, rare archival and activist footage, and scenes from star-studded Hollywood fundraisers. It will spotlight stories about Rock Hudson, Eazy-E, Elizabeth Taylor, David Geffen, the creation of the red ribbon (a symbol worn to show support for people living with HIV), the local ACT UP chapter and APLA Health, which initially was known as AIDS Project Los Angeles.

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Craig E. Thompson, CEO of APLA Health, added: “It is critical to capture and reflect on the oral histories of our surviving elders so their heroic stories and the memories of those they loved may be shared far and wide.”

The documentary will premiere in 2022.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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