Still Around

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday May 3, 2012

Still Around

"Still Around" is a compendium of 15 short films on the theme of HIV. Most of the protagonists are positive, but the ways in which they deal with their status--and associated issues, like coming out to family or getting politically involved--are wildly different.

In some of these shorts, we're treated to performance pieces--slam poetry and inventive filming that can tease us, as in Daniel Cardone's "Construct," in which poetry about physical disfigurement is intensified by shots that hint at (or briefly show) a body ravaged by infection--and a spirit that has moved toward self-knowledge. Robert Dekkers' "Ours" presents a highly stylized dance piece, staged in front of a cathedral.

Other films are more straightforward and documentarian. In shorts from Stuart Gaffney's "Full Circle," in which a straight woman talks about being HIV+ in a suburban, heterosexual environment, to Emmanuelle Antolin's "To Live" and S. Chiang Leo's "Tita," where a rapper and a transwoman and health provider talk about how the disease has affected their lives, we're offered glimpses into little-seen facets of the epidemic.

Other films depart a little from the predictable. "Paws," by Tim Kulikowsy and Ian Welfley, looks at a poz man's relationship with his support dog. Jorg Fockele's "Ritual" shows how one man draws strength by occasionally having his shoulders pierced with hooks and then being hoisted up and twirled around. His agony is matched by his bliss, as he pirouettes and plays in mid-air. A survivor of the epidemic and his adoptive son retrace their sometimes tumultuous, but rewarding relationship in Rick Osmon's "Instant Dad."

Perhaps one of the most surprising films--and one of the most affecting testimonies--is Marc Smolowicz's "Sorrow and Joy," in which a young transman talks about his sexual identity and his transition from female to male, a process that takes place against a backdrop of acute consciousness of the plague. The best films in this outstanding anthology give us what this segment so expertly distills: The drama, dangers, and enrichment of finding out who you are--and laying claim to it--without letting labels get in the way.

Screening at the Miami Gay And Lesbian Film Festival ::

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.