"Commitment To Life" documentary details the fight against HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles

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Saturday, July 22, 2023
Documentary details the fight against HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles
Using first-person interviews, rare archival and activist footage, and scenes from star-studded Hollywood fundraisers, the film presents the epidemic's L.A. history.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A new documentary tells the story of the local response to the AIDS epidemic, and how Hollywood mobilized to raise awareness and support the LGBTQ+ community.

"The idea of "Commitment To Life" is to tell the story of the AIDS crisis in Los Angeles," said Jeffrey Schwarz, director of the film.

"And this is a story that every city has its own version of. New York has a version of the story, and San Francisco. But the L.A. story has never really been told."

Craig Thompson, CEO of APLA Health, stated, "The first documented cases of what we now know as HIV, we're actually reported in Los Angeles in 1981."

He continued, "A couple of years ago, we were acknowledging the 40th anniversary of the first documented cases. We realized in going out and trying to get stories about the history, that we were losing our first-hand voices."

"This really became a project like what you see with World War I veterans and World War II veterans and others, as they got older and older, getting them on film to tell those stories, or we would have lost the narrative forever."

Schwarz added, "One of the really brilliant things that AIDS Project Los Angeles did to raise money for AIDS, raise awareness for AIDS, was to have these yearly fundraisers called Commitment to Life, all the major stars in Hollywood would come to perform."

"We had access to all this material because a APLA kept everything. We have clips of performances by Elton John and Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston."

"It was such a fun event and through the darkest years of the AIDS epidemic, we found allies. We found support."

Thompson stated, "Hollywood brought AIDS stories in the living rooms across America. This was the first time that celebrities really got attached to an issue."

"It happens all the time now. We use celebrity power to raise money and raise awareness. That came from the AIDS movement."

"So that power that we had in Hollywood in crafting the message, just changed lives and changed attitudes all across America," said Thompson.

In the film, Elizabeth Taylor states, "What we all have to do. Grab our neighbors, our friends, our acquaintances, grab them by the throat if necessary, make them understand."

"Commitment To Life" recently made its public debut at the Outfest Film Festival which showcases LGBTQ+ stories.

The festival runs through Sunday, July 23. To get tickets, see the full line-up, or find more information about how to attend the event, visit outfestla.org.

Check out abc7.com/pride for stories about the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies, and share your Pride with #abc7eyewitness.