Sunday Nov 20
4:30 PM - 6:30 PM
We Were Here
documents the coming of what was called the “Gay Plague” in the early 1980s. It illuminates the profound personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed. It offers a cathartic validation for the generation that suffered through, and responded to, the onset of AIDS. It opens a window of understanding to those who have only the vaguest notions of what transpired in those years. It provides insight into what society could, and should, offer its citizens in the way of medical care, social services, and community support.
We Were Here
focuses on 5 individuals – all of who lived in San Francisco prior to the epidemic. Their lives changed in unimaginable ways when their beloved city changed from a hotbed of sexual freedom and social experimentation into the epicenter of a terrible sexually transmitted plague. From their different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves, the interviewees share stories which are not only intensely personal, but which also illuminate the much larger themes of that era: the political and sexual complexities, the terrible emotional toll, the role of women – particularly lesbians – in caring for and fighting for their gay brothers.
David Weissman — producer, director
David Weissman moved to San Francisco in 1976. A longhaired refugee from the rapidly gentrifying bohemian enclave of Venice Beach CA, David was elated to find himself in such a beautiful city overflowing with activists, artists, performers, poets, hippies, drag queens and Deadheads. There were rebels and dreamers of every variety, thousands of whom were gays and lesbians, creating what was often referred to as the “Gay Mecca.”
David remembers the thrill of being at Harvey Milk’s camera store on the night of his election, and at the victory party for the No on 6 Campaign – the first major electoral victory for the emerging gay movement. Devastated by Harvey’s assassination just months later, David became more active in SF politics – working on political campaigns and as a Legislative Assistant to San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt.
In 1981, David began taking filmmaking courses at City College of San Francisco – in a film department a bit larger than a broom closet with a great collection of instructors. He began making offbeat comedies, usually with some kind of provocative or political edge, and found that he loved the medium, the process, and the opportunity to communicate with a large audience.
For years David made short films, which screened widely in festivals around the world. He also worked on other people’s films (including Crumb, and In The Shadow of the Stars) and taught a variety of filmmaking classes here and there. As people began to die of AIDS in the early and mid-80s, this began to affect the content of David’s films, particularly in the short film Song From an Angel which featured San Francisco performer Rodney Price doing a song and tap-dance about his own death, two weeks before he died of AIDS.
In 1990, David was the first recipient of the Sundance Institute’s Mark Silverman Fellowship for New Producers, which included a 4-month producing internship on the Joel and Ethan Coen’s Barton Fink.
In the mid-90s David became interested in HIV prevention policy, and independently produced a groundbreaking series of Public Service Announcements that specifically addressed the complex emotional and psychological stresses facing HIV-negative gay men living in the midst of the epidemic.
In 1998, David teamed up with his friend Bill Weber to co-direct the feature length documentary, The Cockettes. After a 2002 Sundance premiere, theatrical and broadcast release, The Cockettes received the LA Film Critics’Award for Best Documentary of The Year.
The Weissman/Weber team reunited in 2008 to begin work on We Were Here.