Why did you want to make a documentary about amfAR and the AIDS epidemic?
It seemed like a good time to revisit the subject we first visited 25 years ago [in ‘Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt’]. So much has changed since then and there were parts of the story that hadn’t been told. We thought that telling the story of these two women who got involved very early on when they really didn’t have to -- but just because they felt they needed to -- was an inspiring entry point. We wanted to remind people and introduce younger generations to the reality of what was going on back then. There’s complacency among young people now about safe sex because they don’t know how horrible it was. Also, AIDS research has made such exciting progress.
Why do you think Dr. Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor were the perfect pair to launch amfAR?
I don’t know what it was. Chemistry, I guess. They were both very powerful, well-connected women, who were used to getting their way. They complemented each other well; Elizabeth Taylor was very focused on care and treatment and Dr. Krim was very focused on research and science. In that way, they were able to create a very broad outlook for the organization. They were so indomitable and determined and unwilling to take no for an answer. And of course it helped that Elizabeth Taylor was a fabulous movie star.
Do you think there’s still a stigma attached to AIDS?
Yes. I think there is a stigma attached to disease in general. But I don’t think the stigma attached to AIDS has ever lifted completely.
Why was it important for you to show someone who had contracted the disease, like Regan Hoffman?
There were several reasons. One of which is because she’s somebody who’s confronted the stigma and has overcome it, or is struggling to overcome it. Also, because I think it’s important for people to know that, as Elizabeth Taylor said, it’s not just a minority disease. It can affect anybody. She was in a very low-risk group when she got infected.
Do people still believe they can’t get infected because they’re not part of a minority group?
Yeah, I do. I think people take chances. It’s always been difficult to encourage people to engage in safe sex. It was much easier when you saw the horrible deaths people were suffering because of sexually transmitted disease. When you don’t see that anymore, it becomes less vivid. It’s easier to imagine that it’s not going to affect you, or even if it does, that it’s not such a horrible thing.