Groundbreaking film about the 1980's AIDS crisis opens in the IFI

Arthur J Bressan's remarkable film 'Buddies', the first drama feature to portray the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic, will be screened at the IFI.

David holding Robert's hand while in a hospital, a scene from Buddies, playing in the IFI

Buddies, a poignant movie about friendship in the midst of the 1980’s AIDS crisis, will be screening at the Irish Film Institute (IFI) from December 20th. 

Responding to the nationwide stigma around AIDS and Hollywood’s refusal to engage with the topic, Arthur J Bressan Jr wrote and directed Buddies in 1985. Initially released in a small number of art house cinemas, the film explores a gay man becoming a ‘buddy’ for a man dying of AIDS. A buddy provided emotional support for those who were facing the illness alone. 

Two years after the film’s release, Bressan died of complications from AIDS, leaving behind a legacy of gripping dramas that defied mainstream cinema. In 2018, Buddies was remastered and debuted at the San Francisco’s Castro Theater and at New York’s Quad Cinema. The film will now reach an Irish audience through the IFI. 

In 2018, Bressan’s sister Roe and LGBT+ film historian Jenni Olsen launched the Bressan Project, an online preservation of the filmmaker’s work. The Project was announced along with a 2K remastered version of Buddies on DVD. 

Speaking to Filmmaker magazine, Roe said, “We had an incredibly unique, radically honest relationship for someone that is [16 years] older than me. I think my brother loved me more than he loved anybody in his whole life. And he trusted me. When he got sick [with AIDS], he asked me to take care of him.”

Roe further stated, “Buddies was very close to him. He was living in New York, and he lost 32 people. I have a red telephone book [of his] somewhere, that just has 32 names crossed out of it. There was testing, but there was no treatment, there were no clinics. He really felt that something had to be said and something had to be done. So, he went to California and interviewed his friends that were dying of AIDS, wrote the script in five days, and shot it back in New York.”

Buddies is described as, “political, personal, and deeply moving, this is a remarkable document of darker times.” It is a tender exploration of friendship created through tragedy and the intimate moments shared between two people. 

Starkly contrasting mainstream media’s insistence on portraying AIDs as the ‘gay disease’, the film grapples with the reality of living under this assumption and the importance of coming together. Buddies is the first feature length drama about the illness, radical in its straightforward storytelling approach and devastating in its meaning. 

Bressan’s film is truly a masterpiece in the way it captures the time period.  IFI will be screening Buddies from December 20th up to the 23rd. Tickets are on sale.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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