As part of its “We Demand: History/Sex/Activism in Canada” series, there is a rare showing of Zero Patience (John Greyson , Canada, 1993) at the Pacific Cinematheque on Saturday, August 27, 2011 at 7:00pm.
Zero Patience is a musical melodrama about AIDS that doubles as a trenchant critique of scientific empiricism and colonialism. Gorgeously photographed in eye-popping, super-saturated colours reminiscent of the classic MGM movie musicals, and filled with lavish production numbers (watch for the late Michael Callen as Miss HIV), the film is one of the best examples of Greyson’s dialectical approach to narrative temporality. Victorian sexologist Richard Burton (Robinson) is transposed to present-day Toronto, where he meets Zero (Fauteaux), the ghost of Québécois flight attendant Gaëtan Dugas (Fauteaux), whom Randy Shilts (in And the Band Played On) and others blamed for introducing HIV to North America.
For more about Gaëtan Dugas see the previous news story.
The historical juxtaposition and accompanying visual anachronisms allow Greyson to shed critical light on the personal and political struggles of several HIV-positive members of a fictional local AIDS activist chapter, including George (Keens-Douglas), a teacher who is slowly going blind from the onset of cytomegalovirus. George’s doubts about his future as a PWA are set aslant Burton’s certainty that science can explain the past origins of HIV. It is left to Zero, in “The Butthole Duet” and other numbers, to convince Burton otherwise, and to contrast the supposedly linear telos of epidemiology with a counter-narrative of unruly queer desire.
It is preceded by a showing of Water into Fire(Zachery Longboy Canada, 1994), aperformance piece in which the artist outs himself as a First Nations gay man living with HIV.
The “We Demand” film series commemorates August 28, 1971, when some two hundred lesbian and gay activists gathered on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to demand the federal government bring an end to laws and practices that criminalized, marginalized and stigmatized lesbians and gays. Acting in solidarity, Vancouver activists staged the same action on the steps of their city’s Court House. The “We Demand” protest (named after a brief submitted at the time to the federal government) was the first recorded national political action undertaken by gay liberationists and lesbian feminist activists in Canada.
The films have been programmed to parallel a landmark conference of the same name that will take place at the Coast Plaza Hotel in downtown Vancouver August 26-28th, 2011. Organized by the Canadian Committee on the History of Sexuality, the conference is the first in Canada since 1993 devoted to the history of sexuality. The aim of the conference is to facilitate, promote, and expand the study of sexuality and activism in Canada from a historical perspective. The film series includes a cross-section of rarely-seen narrative and documentary, feature-length and short films and videos made in Canada between 1971 and 2011.