APLA Health hosted an exclusive private screening of the feature documentary “Commitment to Life” by Automat Pictures this past Wednesday, February 22, 2023, in the Pacific Design Center’s Silver Screen Theater. The doc, by filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (“Tab Hunter Confidential,” “I Am Divine”), was fresh from a recent Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) world premiere the previous weekend. It features lots of never-before-seen footage, a lot taken in 80s West Hollywood.
It was a who’s who at the reception before the screening of the documentary . Persons who are featured in the film such as Jewel Thais-Williams, Co-founder, Minority AIDS Project, Bruce Vlanch, Writer and Comedian, Torie Osborn, Former Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Dr. Michael Gottlieb Physician and Former APLA Board Member, and Steve Pieters, Former Field Director of AIDS Ministry, were among those in attendance.
Other familiar faces include Sheila Kuehl, former Los Angeles County Supervisor, John D’Amico, former West Hollywood Council Member member and Mayor, Marc Malkin, Senior Culture & Events Editor at Variety, and LGBTQ Journalist and activist Karen Ocamb.
The event featured a Q&A panel after the screening lead by Marc Malkin.
“Commitment to Life” is a story of unwavering bravery in the face of death. In the early 1980s, a young doctor at UCLA reports a strange immune disorder among gay men — the world’s first warning sign of the epidemic to come. “Commitment to Life” documents this incredible drama — Rock Hudson and Easy-E, Elizabeth Taylor and David Geffen, the Red Ribbon and “Philadelphia,” ACT UP and AIDS Project Los Angeles — through the stories of those who lived through it
The film profiles some of the extraordinary and courageous individuals who stepped forward in a fight for survival. People like Nancy Cole, one of the founders of AIDS Project Los Angeles, who helped provide vital services in those dark early days and was one of the first women in LA to go public about having AIDS. Or Phill Wilson, who, when he and his partner Chris Brownlie were faced with their own HIV diagnosis, became full time activists, and helped defeat the notorious Prop 64, which would have placed people with HIV in internment camps. There’s Brenda Frieberg, who when both of her sons were diagnosed with AIDS, traveled to Washington to lobby for access to drugs that could save their lives. Or Jewel Thais-Williams, owner of Catch One disco, who helped start the Minority AIDS Project to address the needs of the African American community. And in the center of the storm was AIDS Project Los Angeles, a committed group of activists who helped care for the sick and dying, while at the same time lobbied those in Hollywood to contribute to the fight. APLA brought together A-list stars like Elizabeth Taylor, who used her celebrity to advocate for people with AIDS and inspired the Hollywood community to do the same.
Using newly filmed interviews, never-before-seen clips from APLA’s gala fundraising events, rare archival footage, and long-forgotten PSAs, “Commitment to Life” reconstructs the virus’ devastating march and the city that rose to fight it. Like the virus itself, the story winds through gated communities and neighborhoods of color, government offices and university labs, hospital suites and studio sound stages to tell a story of courage and sacrifice — as well as one of discrimination and unequal treatment.
The “Commitment to Life” filmmaking team is helmed by Director & Editor Jeffrey Schwarz; Producers Aimée Flaherty, p.g.a. (“Moulin Rouge,” “Killing The Colorado”), and Jeffrey Schwarz, p.g.a.; Executive Producer Ron Sylvester (“Bystander Revolution,” “IMDb: What to Watch”); Co-Executive Producer Robert James Wood II; Co-Producer Taki Oldham; Associate Producer Michael Stabile; Executive Producer for APLA Health Craig Thompson; Supervising Producer for APLA Health Craig Bowers; Composer Allyson Newman (“Generation Q,” “The L Word”) with the participation of Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles; and Cinematographer Adam Jason Finmann (“Daddy Issues,” “Dirty Cops”).
“>“Commitment to Life” Features Key Interviewees Featured in the Film: Jewel Thais-Williams Co-founder, Minority AIDS Project; Phill Wilson HIV/AIDS Activist; Karamo Brown “Queer Eye” Cast Member & HIV/AIDS Educator; Dr. Michael Gottlieb Physician and Former APLA Board Member; Bruce Vilanch Writer and Comedian; Jeffrey Katzenberg Former Chairman, Walt Disney Studios and APLA Board Member; Bill Misenhimer Former APLA Executive Director; Robert Contreras Co-Founder, Bienestar; Torie Osborn Former Executive Director, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Rev. Steve Pieters Former Field Director of AIDS Ministry, Metropolitan Community Churches; and Bamby Salcedo President, TransLatin Coalitio.
Another West Hollywood happening we would never know anything about. Jewel Thais-Williams is my superhero. I would have attended this event and endured yet another AIDS Story, just to meet her.