For many people, in 2014, the fear of HIV and AIDS is much less immediate and pervasive than it was just a few years ago. Anyone old enough to remember can attest to the fear, stigma and uncertainty surrounding the virus and disease in the ’80s and early ’90s.
Today, considerable medical progress has been made in terms of treating and managing the disease, such that a diagnosis is no longer equivalent to a death sentence. And socially, we've come a long way in understanding the virus and disease as well as reducing the stigma and shame that traditionally accompanied it.
And while these are obviously positive developments, it's important not to minimize the virus or disease as a result of the progress. Education, testing and prevention are still as important as ever, especially for a generation of people who grew up after the widespread panic surrounding HIV and AIDS had generally calmed down.
For KT Curran, director and producer at SOURCE Productions, a Sarasota-based educational theater and video-production company, the desire to keep that awareness in the public eye was the inspiration behind the company's latest production in association with the Community AIDS Network, "When the Party Ends," starring co-writer Frankie LaPace and Jimmy DiPaola.
The aptly-titled short narrative film tells the story of Anthony, a Sarasota native who returns home from New York City after being exposed to HIV. Scared and looking for comfort, he seeks advice from his ex boyfriend and first true love. Caught up in his professional ambitions and returning to a home town steeped in party culture, Anthony is forced to stop living a life of distraction and face hard reality, as the title would suggest.
The plot is a very specific one, but its themes are universal: friendship, homecoming, escapism and the complicated nature of relationships.
"We made this film to show that this is still happening," says Curran. "Sometimes it seems like nobody's talking about it anymore, but in reality, there are so many people in our community who are living with HIV. We wanted to get people talking about it again, especially younger people. These are issues that people don't want to talk about out loud, but it's that silence that can be deadly."
Created by Planned Parenthood and known for films like "The Holding Cell," Curran says SOURCE Productions was the perfect outlet for the story.
"We wanted to spread this message through art," she says. "I think young people are much more responsive to that medium."
"So often, it can feel like you're being talked at, rather than talked to," added Assistant Director Zara Barrie. "We hoped people could identify with the characters — it's so much more effective to see this happening to a human being."
Throughout the course of the film, the aforementioned themes of hardship and relationships emerge as the film's strongest, making an abstract concept tangible and turning the characters' experience with HIV and AIDS into more than just a statistic or public service announcement, but a relatable and thought-provoking struggle.
The film recently wrapped filming and is expected to be edited and completed by the end of the year, after which it will be screened locally and submitted to film festivals.
"I hope that it shows the power of people coming together," says Jimmy DiPaola. "With a shared passion and purpose, people can change the world."