United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

ACT UP protesters use faux tombstones to represent the real causes of death for People with AIDS as seen in UNITED IN ANGER: A HISTORY OF ACT UP, a film by Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman. Picture courtesy United in Anger, Inc.

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

Production Company:
  • United in Anger Inc.

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United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012)

Opened: 07/06/2012 Quad Cinema/NYC

Quad Cinema/NYC07/06/2012 - 07/12/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

Websites: Home, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube

Genre: Documentary

Rated: Unrated

Listen to the producers of UNITED IN ANGER: A HISTORY OF ACT UP this Friday on WNYC!

The producers of UNITED IN ANGER: A HISTORY OF ACT UP, Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman, will be on The Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC 93.9 FM and 820 AM) this coming Friday at 10:40 am EST. After the show airs you'll be able to listen to it on the website.


The Quad Cinema is proud to present UNITED IN ANGER: A HISTORY OF ACT UP (93 minutes). The film documents the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people who fought in the trenches against an epidemic of disease, indifference and impenetrable bureaucratic routines.

In the early 1980s, 80% of people with AIDS died within 24 months of diagnosis. But the "mysterious disease" seemed to be segregated to a minority and some of the broader public let it be known that "gays" were getting what they deserved. Many suggested that people with AIDS be quarantined and the at-risk population feared WWII style internment camps. With profound grief and rage, members of ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) turned their incredible energy and frustration into action and fought for their survival -- for speedy release of new drugs, affordable access to treatment, better education about the disease and how it spread and ultimately for respectful recognition.

Using remarkably insightful interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project, as well as rare archival footage that puts the audience on the ground with activists, Director Jim Hubbard traces the evolution of this initially small coalition--men and women of all races and classes who came together to change the world and save each other's lives. What started in the basement of New York City's Gay and Lesbian Community Center evolved into a complex culture of impassioned meetings and sophisticated civil disobedience. Beginning in 1987, ACT UP grew into an international movement which quickly comprised more than 140 chapters worldwide.

In Affinity groups, such as The Marys, who brought the dead to the White House or Action Tours, a large group that infiltrated many government buildings and offices by posing as tourists, ACT UP members seemed to pop up everywhere, even on camera during Dan Rather's CBS Evening News. The film takes us through the planning and execution of a dozen exhilarating major actions: Seize Control of the FDA; Storm the NIH ( the National Institutes of Health; and Stop the Church, the Die-In at St Patrick's Cathedral and includes a timeline of many of the other zaps and actions that forced the U.S. government and mainstream media to face and engage with the AIDS crisis.

"I started making this film 25 years ago, 10 years ago or 3 years ago depending on how you look at it," recalls Director Jim Hubbard. "I started filming Gay political events in 1979 in the lead up to the first national march on Washington. In the early 1980s when AIDS first devastated the Gay community, I began thinking about making a film about AIDS, but was stymied because I had no intention of elbowing my way into hospital rooms to show people at their most vulnerable and victimized as the mainstream media were doing."

On another front, Producer Sarah Schulman recounts something she heard on a radio broadcast in June 2001, during the 20th anniversary of AIDS that said in essence "at first Americans were upset by AIDS, but then they got used to it...." After more than 20 years of ACT UP's effective activism that changed medical treatment for people with AIDS and helped to establish health care in America as a "civil right," a floored Schulman knew she had to set the record straight. "We knew," says Schulman "that we had to do something about this political amnesia that effaced the incredible efforts of thousands of AIDS activists, living and dead. We began the ACT UP Oral History Project. To date, we have videotaped interviews with 133 ACT UPpers and expect to interview at least 100 more before we are finished." James Wentzy, UNITED IN ANGER's cinematographer, who has been documenting ACT UP since 1990, videotaped most of the interviews. Many excerpts from these interviews are in the film and complete transcripts and more video excerpts are available for view on the website www.ActUpOralHistory.org.

UNITED IN ANGER is ultimately a case study of democracy at work showing how individuals can seize control of their lives as part of a coalition of the committed, bringing comfort and healing and political power to those in need. It illustrates how the media can be used by the activist and how this coalition of the committed preserves the rights and enhances the effectiveness of the individual. The efforts and activism of ACT UP forced our country to face facts no matter how horrifying, and how to trade the lure of being liked for the pride of being effective.

About the Filmmakers

Jim Hubbard (Director)

Jim Hubbard has been making films since 1974. Recently, he completed United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, a feature length documentary on ACT UP, the AIDS activist group. Sarah Schulman and he are continuing work on the ACT UP Oral History Project, as well. One hundred and two interviews from the ACT UP Oral History Project were on view in a 14-monitor installation at the Carpenter Center for the Arts, Harvard University as part of the exhibition ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987--1993, October 15 -- December 23, 2009. A version with 114 interviews showed at the White Columns Gallery in New York, September 8 -- October 23, 2010.

He, along with James Wentzy, created a 9-part cable access television series based on the Project. Among his 19 other films are Elegy in the Streets (1989), Two Marches (1991), The Dance (1992) and Memento Mori (1995).

His films have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, the Berlin Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Torino and many other Lesbian and Gay Film Festivals. His film Memento Mori won the Ursula for Best Short Film at the Hamburg Lesbian & Gay Film Festival in 1995. He co-founded MIX - the New York Lesbian and Gay Experimental Film/Video Festival. Under the auspices of the Estate Project for Artists with AIDS, he created the AIDS Activist Video Collection at the New York Public Library.

He curated the series Fever in the Archive: AIDS Activist Videotapes from the Royal S. Marks Collection for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. The 8-program series took place December 1-9, 2000. He also co-curated the series, Another Wave: Recent Global Queer Cinema at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, July and September 2006.

Sarah Schulman (Producer)

Sarah Schulman is the author of 17 books, most recently THE GENTRIFICATION OF THE MIND: WItness to a Lost Imagination (U of Cal Press.) She is co-founder, with Jim Hubbard of the MIX:NYC Queer Experimental Film and Video Festival, now in its 25th year and The ACT UP Oral History Project (www.actuporalhistory.org). She is co-writer, with director Cheryl Dunye, of two films : THE OWLS (Berlinale, 2010) and MOMMY IS COMING (Berlinale, 2012.) Sarah is Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at the City University of New York, College of Staten Island.

Ali Cotterill (Writer/Editor)

Ali Cotterill is a filmmaker and editor based in Brooklyn, NY. Prior to United in Anger, she worked on the documentary feature Exotic World and the Burlesque Revival as well as various TV shows. Her films have screened internationally at 100+ festivals and been broadcast on Logo and Current TV. You can keep up with her at www.AliCotterill.com.

James Wentzy (Director of Photography)

James Wentzy was born in Brookings, South Dakota, and has lived in New York City since 1976. He has been a member of ACT UP/New York since 1990 and maintained its website for more than 10 years. As a producer/director for DIVA TV (Damned Interfering Video Activists) since 1991, he has taped more than 700 hours of ACT UP demonstrations, meetings and other activities and edited more than 160 30-minute programs for a series entitled AIDS Community Television, which documents community responses to the AIDS crisis. Wentzy also worked as a video archivist for the Estate Project's AIDS Activist Video Preservation Project for the New York Public Library. He made Fight Back, Fight AIDS, a feature-length documentary about ACT UP. He is HIV positive.