The Hollywood Reporter gives a stellar review of Saville’s new documentary film 5B, co-directed by Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis! Krauss and Haggis pay warm tribute to the nurses and volunteers who set up America’s first AIDS unit at San Francisco General Hospital during the crisis years.
The ravages of the AIDS crisis, the stigmatization of its victims and the shameful prolonged indifference of the Ronald Reagan government have been widely chronicled in both narrative and nonfiction features. But the heroism of the nurses and volunteer caregivers manning the frontlines is a largely overlooked aspect that’s worth remembering. Co-directors Dan Krauss and Paul Haggis set out to do just that in 5B, a stirring assembly of first-person oral history and extensive archival footage that honors the pioneering work carried out in that ward, which opened in 1983 at San Francisco General Hospital in direct response to a state of emergency still being widely ignored at that time.
This is a straightforward, no-frills project built in conventional style around a series of talking-head interviews. Despite a nagging tendency to milk sentiment from wrenching subject matter that requires no manipulation, the doc is notable for its admirably inclusive perspective. It covers both the selfless contributions of people fighting the good fight — gay and straight, men and women, medics and nonprofessionals — as well as the conservative forces who tried to discredit the efforts of 5B staffers to bring dignity and compassion to what at that time was a death sentence. The film will be released theatrically through Verizon distribution arm RYOT in June.
Making up the rules as they went along, the nurses reset the standard boundaries of clinical detachment to make human contact the focus, rejecting the alarmist precaution of hazmat suits prevalent even among medical professionals elsewhere at S.F. General during a time when knowledge of how the infection was spread was still unclear. When one skeletal patient talks about the comfort of feeling another person’s hand on his after not being touched for a year, the then-radical nature of 5B’s holistic approach really hits home.
Continue reading on The Hollywood Reporter.