Washington's Other City
Inside the beltway, at least 3 percent of the Chocolate City is HIV-positive, stats that you usually find in sub-Saharan Africa. A new documentary examines living in the midst of the epidemic.
The film is laid out like a book of short stories, all connected by a single topic. But each essay focuses on the personal struggle, and sometimes triumph, of each individual. At times the documentary teeters into sentimental territory, but perhaps that's inevitable with such subject matter. It's hard to be clinical and dispassionate when exploring life-and-death issues that are part and parcel of living with HIV/AIDS.
And yet, to the filmmakers' credit, the documentary never descends into maudlin self-pity or a superior "look at these poor folks" attitude. You want real? This is as real as it gets. And the people we come to know are struggling to survive not just their infections, but the sometime ambivalent response the rest of us evidence.
Even today, more than two decades into the epidemic, AIDS still comes with a stigma. "With this film, I feel it is time to restart the conversation about a devastating epidemic that is not going away," says Vargas. "To me The Other City is America's underclass as told through a virus."
Nick Charles is a regular contributor to The Root.