BPM focuses on the advocates and their fight for acknowledgment, adequate treatment, and public education, on behalf of those living with HIV/AIDS in the early 90s. Set in France, director Robin Campillo explores the rollercoaster of Public Action, the different personalities, and points of view of members of ACT UP’s Paris Chapter.
In the midst of conflicting ideology and agendas, Nathan (Arnaud Valois), a new ACTUP member, falls in love with outspoken veteran activist Sean Nahuel Pérez Biscayart) who’s all-in for whatever it takes to defend those stricken with HIV/AIDS.
Sean and Nathan’s relationship unfolds within the larger context of the movement: participating in disruptive public actions, rallies, flash mob sex ed “pop-ups” at high schools (something that given the rising rate of STIs and pregnancy needs to be a current activist tactic) and ACT UP Paris group meetings. The constant awareness of lives lost to the disease surround Nathan and Sean as their connection deepens and their intimacy’s tempered by Sean’s own battle to survive the virus. It’s tragic, beautiful and vital and above all else real.
No one watching need to guess what the struggle to live and survive while positive looks like because Sean’s story arc pulls no punches and is steep in truth. Sean isn’t in favor of more aggressive action for no reason. He’s sick and weakening. It makes him not only an ardent and fierce advocate; it puts a face to the diagnosis for the audience.
BPM never hides the human cost of HIV/AIDs.
All the activists presented on screen are three-dimensional characters who are both recognizable and believable as representative of real people and relationships. The group leaders Thibault (Antoine Reinartz) and Sophie (Adèle Haenel) favor a more moderate and conciliatory approach to making strides on behalf of the community than Sean and other members of ACT UP and those moments of conflict during group meetings and at events reveal the true inner workings of activism that should still feel relevant.
The reasons each member has been called to action are compelling, informative, and as varied as the people themselves. As we learn more about these players, the circumstances of their lives and what drives their activism the uphill battle for information and attention from the government comes into sharper focus. It’s a much-needed look behind the veil done with skill and told with a sharp intellect that resonates.
BMP keeps its lens aimed squarely at the inner workings of the battle against government apathy, closed mouth pharmaceutical companies and conflicting agendas of various HIV/AIDs activist groups. It’s an raw inside view of the grassroots movement and its members who stood in the breach to speak for the ignored and forgotten.
You’ll remember things, learn things and be enraged by how much still remains unchanged despite the years and strides that have seemingly been made.
There are plenty of movies that are poignant looks at the struggle for equality and societal recognition. There are even more hard-hitting character dramas featuring people (real and imagined) who’ve suffered through illness under the neglectful eye of their governments. But BPM is one of the first films I’ve watched where advocacy is the central focus and the ultimate star fo the film.
Hats off to this amazing cast for telling such a powerful, vivid and heartwrenching story with flair, and a beautiful depth of emotion.
In a time when an official acknowledgment of World AIDS Day by the White House deliberately excludes any mention of any portion of the LGBTQ community, this emotional portrayal of the rollercoaster of living and breathing activism is extremely timely and definitely need.
If you live in San Diego, you can catch BPM at Digital Gym from Dec. 1 through Dec. 7.
If you’re not living n So Cal, Check BPM‘s official site to find where you can see it.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
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