Directed by Charlie David
Positive Youth’s screening was preceded by a documentary short called Still Here, about New Yorker Randy Baron. This intelligent man talks about himself, his former partner who died of AIDS and the latter’s relatives, and his new boyfriend who has no problems with his own status. He discusses the harrowing nature of having seen his former boyfriend and other friends waste away, his justified health paranoia, the innate physical mutation that stops the virus from killing his T-cells and what he does as a constant survivor of the illness.
Positive Youth is a made for TV documentary by first time director Charlie David. It aims to be inspirational, a few gradations sunnier than last year’s We Were Here, a movie about the first generation affected by the AIDS epidemic. That movie, despite showing enough tears, was also a realistic view of the gay sex culture and how people infected with HIV/AIDS and their friends and neighbours can learn to smile again despite knowing that nothing was going to be normal again. Positive Youth is a tastefully sunnier version of that, this time covering the second generation of HIV positive twenty-somethings. My generation, as the kids in this movie range from 18 to 26 years of age.
The focus of this documentary are HIV-positive Jesse Brown, Floridian Youtube personality Christopher Brooks or TheRedLife, Phoenix entertainer Austin Head and AIDS advocate Rakiya Larkin, whose mother and boyfriend are HIV positive.
The main thing to keep in mind with this doc is its realism and multi-faceted view of the illness. It’s less militant (or maybe more so) as it doesn’t play the blame game. One of the movie’s talking heads is a doctor telling the camera that many sexually active, non-monogamous people of any sexuality have had at least one instance of unprotected sex. This is a fact brushed off by many heterosexual homophobes but is also not factored in by those within LGBT circles and thus has to be acknowledged.
It also explains the disease’s social implications. Like how one in something of the active youths in cities like New York City and Vancouver – as well as the gay enclaves within those cities – are HIV positive, some of whom, not knowing their status, are spreading the illness unknowingly. Three of the four of the documentary’s subjects are also well-versed in their ambivalence with taking HIV medication because of financial concerns and eligibility. There was a question from an audience member to the movie’s director/panel pointing out these youths as middle class, but despite how well these people dress and how happy they seem, their financial struggles are well-documented here in this movie.
In micro effects, Jesse’s boyfriend gets judged for dating an HIV positive man. Rakiya has to work to support her mother. In showing these hardships no one can brush off the movie for being too blindly optimistic.
But again, it’s probably a quality within our generation that helps these youths build up themselves. Instead of the corseted normalcy of past generations we’re armed with smiles, extroversion, and resilience. Jesse and Rakiya, working within the same area, are connected to each other and keep raising awareness and outreach. Christopher doesn’t stop with his search for a day job. And Austin writes and sings, sharing the good and the bad aspects of his life. It is uplifting to watch these four youths, their realism-bound optimism can make audiences of any status and age reach out and be ambitious.