The Other Side of AIDS

"OK"

The Other Side of AIDS Review


The Other Side of AIDS, a documentary by Robin Scovill, had its world premiere in its completed form at the Tallgrass Film Festival in Wichita, Kansas on October 3. The film takes the position that HIV is not the cause of AIDS; rather, it says that the gay lifestyle of the 1980s - constant drug abuse (including toxic "poppers"), malnutrition, and rampant, casual sex - was a natural breeding ground for illnesses and infections of all kinds, and that the resulting sicknesses have incorrectly been lumped together into a syndrome: AIDS. No one dies of AIDS, the film continues; in fact, the most frequent cause of death among those identified as HIV-positive is the powerful, toxic drugs used to treat it.

Naturally, this is a controversial position, and already Newsweek has likened Scovill and his adherents to Holocaust-deniers. The established medical community is likewise hostile to them, afraid that vulnerable HIV-positive persons will abandon their drug regimens and go untreated. And gay groups are justifiably upset by the broad brush used in characterizing gay men as amoral party animals.

As a film, Scovill's documentary is persuasive stuff. He uses a rigorous, interview-by-interview method to get his message across, and his allies include world-renowned experts on immunology and molecular cell biology (there's even a Nobel laureate), as well as infected men and women who live medication-free, or who recall the horrors of the drug regimens they endured before buying into Scovill's theories. The film lacks visual variety, and it needs narration in the opening segment in which scientific data dominates the proceedings, but it's surprisingly engrossing.

But you're advised to take Scovill's message with a dose of skepticism. While he take pains to answer the questions that his theories give rise to (who, for instance, is partying all night with poppers in Central Africa?), he is less scrupulous in presenting the breadth of the case against his position. One of the film's central witnesses is a winning, HIV-positive woman named Christine Maggiore; she's a powerful presence, and her ideas are seductive. What the film doesn't reveal is that she is also Scovill's wife, a key clue to Scovill's motivations and a fact that the audience would obviously benefit from knowing.

The Other Side of AIDS is dangerous filmmaking. It presents issues that have life-or-death importance to many of us and, as such, it's not as scrupulously made as it needs to be. That Scovill's message should be considered is a given, but what the film doesn't prove to my satisfaction that it hasn't been. The worst case scenario is that The Other Side of AIDS will damage the health of those who are already fighting for their lives, and, as such, those who are interested in these ideas need to find out more before acting on what they learn. It's a powerful reminder of how dangerous a medium film can be.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 87 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 10th October 2004

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 3.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

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