Since 2001, the Northeast Modern Language Association (NEMLA) convention has included a series of panels on AIDS-related topics e.g., “AIDS and Women,” “AIDS and Race” and “Cultural Responses to AIDS.” The proposed panel for 2004 is “AIDS in/and Film.”
In 1981, the year the syndrome was made public, there were no films about AIDS. In 2003, few films about AIDS are released, mainstream or independent. This is not to imply that there has been a dearth during the intervening twenty-plus years. Quite the contrary, the scope of AIDS films ranges widely, from Pedro Almodovar’s critically-lauded “All About My Mother” to Robin Wright Penn’s “hidden” portrayal of a Person with AIDS in “Forrest Gump” to the frequently-proposed albeit never-filmed adaptation of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart.”
There has always been something fetching, something wondrously magical, about the silver screen. How then might AIDS be (re)presented in film, a disease that is still infecting people and people are still dying from in a medium of media often associated with fantasy and escape? How do we reconcile when PWAs are played by non-HIV-positive people (e.g., Ed Harris in “The Hours”)? Why do we revere straight men playing gay PWAs, winning Academy Awards for the portrayals (Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia”)? How do we account for and/or address these and other related slippages?
AIDS activists are valiantly striving to get people to “remember AIDS,” to understand that the crisis is far from over. In the midst of reasserting ourselves and finding new steps of change in fighting complacency, we must take into account as many areas of visibility as possible. This proposed panel on AIDS in/and Film seeks to do just that. Papers might address:
The semiotics of films about AIDS: what makes a film an “AIDS film?”
The Hollywood-ization of AIDS in film
Commercial and/or critical reception of AIDS films
Representations of race, class, gender and/or sexual orientation in AIDS films
Movie adaptations of other genres e.g., “Love! Valour! Compassion!”
Plaudits in the Plague: how do we read films such as “Philadelphia?”
Gregg Bordowitz’s oeuvre
“Foreign” AIDS films
Difference and similarity in representations of AIDS in film vs. representations of other diseases e.g., cancer in “Beaches” or “Fried Green Tomatoes”
Submit abstracts, full-length papers and/or questions (e-submissions preferred) by September 1, 2003.
Panelists must be registered members of NEMLA by October 15, 2003 in order to present. For more information about membership, registration or the conference, please visit our website.
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