‘We Were Here,’ a documentary about SF’s AIDs crisis

Airha Dominguez

The documentary We Were Here was screened at the Koret Auditorium as a part of the World AIDS Education and Community Day at De Young Museum on Nov. 30.

The film revisits the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco during the ’80s.

In the process of making the film, director David Weissman explained that he wanted to interview people who have lived through these years. He wanted to share their stories.

We Were Here focuses on the stories of five individuals. Ed Wolf activist; Paul Boneberg; executive director of the GLBT Historical Society; Eileen Glutzer who was a nurse at that time; Daniel Goldstein, artist; and Guy Clark florist, who lived in San Francisco prior to the epidemic. Each one shares their personal experiences going through these tough years.

Weissman never imagined he would make a documentary about AIDS.

The idea of making the film was suggested by a former boyfriend who heard Weissman speak so much about the epidemic and who had not lived through that time.

Weissman said that even though the documentary focuses on San Francisco, putting a thirty-year history in an hour and half was a challenging process.

We Were Here officially premiered in San Francisco at The Castro Theatre in 2011. The film gained tremendous success and was aired the following year on Independent Lens on PBS. Since then, the film has been used in universities and schools.

“I hope what the movie does is remind those of us who were there and also people who weren’t there how young we were and how unprepared anyone could it been for something like this,” said Weissman. “It was such a completely unprecedented situation, and all of us came in this with our own baggage, with our own immaturity, with our own pre-existing experiences of lost and fear of death.”

The screening was followed by a conversation with some of the interviewees that appear in the film.

“Around AIDS, art was a way particularly for me to deal with my situation, my loss,” said Goldstein who is HIV positive, “It was a meditation for me, but there was also a way that I could show other people what I’ve been through.”