Sun, May 31, 2009, 7pm
A sensation at this year’s Berlin International Film Festival, FIG TREES is a wildly inventive and visually stunning documentary opera that manages to weave Gertrude Stein, a singing albino squirrel, and Saint Teresa of Avila into the moving stories of two AIDS activists. This completely original film from celebrated Canadian filmmaker John Greyson – who previously wowed international audiences with ZERO PATIENCE, LILIES, and PROTEUS – denounces government inaction and the outrageous greed of the pharmaceutical industry through a surrealistic, complex, and compelling narrative.
FIG TREES presents the real-life struggles of pioneering AIDS activists Tim McCaskell in Toronto and Zachie Achmat in Cape Town, whose stories parallel one another as their communities are ravaged by the pandemic. With thousands dying every year due to lack of treatment, McCaskell and Achmat agitate and educate for mass access to HIV/AIDS medications. Achmat made international headlines when he went on a treatment strike, refusing his drugs until they were made more widely available to all South Africans. Their heroic efforts, and those of others, are inspiration for a reworking of Gertrude Stein’s 1934 avant-garde classic opera Four Saints in Three Acts.
Equal parts joy and sorrow, FIG TREES is an inspiring tribute to the AIDS activist saints among us. Beautiful to watch and haunting to listen to, Greyson continues to be one of queer cinema’s smartest, most inventive artists.
FIG TREES dir John Greyson 2009 Canada 104 min.
Community Partners: Cascade AIDS Project & Portland Institute for Contemporary Art