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  Buddies Urgent Medical Attention
Year: 1985
Director: Arthur J. Bressan Jr
Stars: Geoff Edholm, David Schachter, Billy Lux, David Rose, Libby Saines, Damon Hairston, Tracy Vivat, Susan Schneider, Joyce Korn
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: David Bennett (David Schachter) has settled on a good deed to perform after reading about the buddy system from an American gay charity: basically, volunteers - or buddies - go along to clinics or hospitals where patients are dying of the AIDS virus and befriend them in their final weeks or days to make them feel better. Considering many of these (often young) men have been rejected by their families and friends and are essentially pariahs in nineteen-eighties America, David is performing a brave act of kindness, but there is little to prepare him for the reality of meeting Robert Willow (Geoff Edholm), who is bedridden and fading away before his eyes. What can David possibly say that would make this poor soul feel better?

Turns out a little solidarity goes a long way, and David's mere presence as a shoulder to cry on or at least a pair of ears to listen are a big help. Buddies was the first film to tackle the AIDS crisis head on, made on a tiny budget by pioneering gay filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan Jr who by this point had a career of homosexual-themed documentaries, drama and even hardcore porn to back up his experience behind the camera. If you have heard of this movie, and it is fairly obscure, then you will likely be aware it was the last he ever made, for he succumbed to the effects of AIDS himself and passed away around a couple of years later, another casualty among too many and evidence the United States Government were far too slow in taking the issues seriously.

Mind you, it took too long for just about everywhere to stop dragging their feet and do something about the AIDS panic, though some places were quicker than others: as is addressed here, on the African Continent the disease became a major problem, not only among gays, as babies were being born with the illness and it remains a problem there to this day, despite incredible progress in combatting the worst of it. Bressan would have been heartened that so many HIV+ people can live ordinary lives with the right medication, but it was all too late for him and countless others, leaving this project as a snapshot of where the gay community was in the dark days of the mid-eighties when any light at the end of the tunnel seemed a very long way off. There were a lot of what ifs about watching this, chiefly what if the progress had been made sooner?

Imagine Bressan had lived to a ripe old age, indeed imagine if his star Edholm had too, for he died of AIDS around the same time his director did, and seeing his largely understated but powerful performance you would ponder that he could have forged a better career himself. Schachter did not stick with acting, but he did "survive" the era, for want of a better word, and while he was on the amateurish side compared to his co-star, he improved as the story drew on and by the end his character's transformation from reticence at putting himself out there to protesting the lack of funding from the Government was more believable than it would have been otherwise. That was also a function of Bressan's screenplay, which cleverly made his lack of resources a virtue, concentrating almost exclusively on David and Robert and giving us occasional glimpses of other people, though most often they were heard in voiceover. It was a very effective trick to get you intrigued, and receptive to the message he wanted to convey; for all its limited means, it did have a stylish quality, and many have been moved by it. Music by Jeffrey Olmstead (mostly string quartet).

[Click here to watch on MUBI.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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