Overview: In the darkest days of the AIDS pandemic, two very different women – Hollywood superstar Elizabeth Taylor and research scientist Dr. Mathilde Krim – joined forces to create amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research), America’s first AIDS research foundation. Directed by Rob Epstein (HBO’s Oscar-winning COMMON THREADS: STORIES FROM THE QUILT) and Jeffrey Friedman (HBO’s Emmywinning THE CELLULOID CLOSET) and executive produced by iconic New York fashion designer and AmfAR chairman Kenneth Cole, THE BATTLE OF AMFAR tells the story of the unlikely pairing of these extraordinary women, who came together to fight the disease.
Using recent and archival interviews with Dr. Krim and Ms.Taylor and additional interviews with amfAR chairman Kenneth Cole, AIDS activist Richard Berkowitz, philanthropist Aileen Getty (Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter-in-law) and others viewers will learn of the battle. Although the war against AIDS is not over, the great victories in the history of research could not have been won without these two women, who stood up for the good of truth and human dignity in the face of illness and fear.
Expectations: This film clocks in at only 41 minutes. Within that time frame I am not expecting a rehash of the history of AIDS/HIV and how it impacted society. This short film has to get right to the basics of its premise right away. It is about how these two women created the foundation. Now I can understand how the good doctor is a part of the situation, though I am sure details of the particulars will make it much clearer.
The big question for me is why was Hollywood personality Elizabeth Taylor so fired up and inspired to be the voice of the cause? I hoped it is answered. I am sure other insightful answers will surface as well. Many of the answers this documentary will address are probably going to be to questions that I am not even aware should be asked. That type of occurrence is what makes documentaries so good – they often answer the questions before you even ask them.
Gut Reaction: Hey, who would have thought in a tight 41-minute piece that we would get the whole enchilada as it were. Not only did we touch upon the creation of AmfAR but we also get a recap of the outbreak of AIDS in America and all the social fear and outrage that went with it. In fact the focus does not weigh heavily on the two ladies here but focuses more on the activism, fund-raising and research aspects of the cause instead. It sums up a lot in so little time.
Now I don’t want to rant on this topic for too long. The viral threat has never impacted my personal life in any way but, like me, if you have a curiosity for the social history of this country or compassion for others than the story of this medical nightmare that terrorized millions is truly insightful. Think about this. An epidemic was raging and there was little knowledge about what it was. The medical professional was fumbling around and the government wasn’t helping. It was not until famous people had died and Ms. Taylor got involved that the situation started to change. How pathetic is that. Equate it to terrorism. The U. S. thought it was immune until something terrible happened and then we dealt with it. Now the threat is still out there, both terrorism and AIDS, but now we are aware and now we are proactive. By watching this documentary we know that as far as AIDS is concerned it was because of AmfAR.
In Conclusion: Well, I did get my answers to both the questions asked and the ones I should have asked. Rock Hudson is the answer to the one the caring and diligence of Dr. Krim and Elizabeth Taylor answered all the rest.
HBO air dates are 12.05 at 2:45pm, 12.07 at 5:10am, 12.08 at 5:00pm, 12.10 at 10:30am, 12.11 at 12:30am, 12.14 at 11:45am and 12.25 at 5:20am. It can also be seen on HBO2 and HBOGo.