In the City of Angels…
Love was greater than AIDS
Against a rich Hollywood backdrop
Commitment to Life documents the true story of the fight against HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles—and how an intrepid group of people living with HIV/AIDS, doctors, movie stars, studio moguls and activists changed the course of the epidemic.
As we get closer to eliminating HIV/AIDS, it is critical to capture and reflect on the oral histories of our surviving elders so that their heroic stories may be shared far and wide.
About the Documentary
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. In the decades that followed, Los Angeles would play a critical role in the battle against HIV/AIDS as doctors, movie stars, studio moguls and activists came together to change the path of the epidemic and how the world saw it.
Commitment to Life documents this incredible drama—Rock Hudson and Eazy-E, Elizabeth Taylor and David Geffen, the Red Ribbon and Philadelphia, ACT UP and APLA—through the stories of those who lived through it. Using first-person interviews, rare archival and activist footage, and scenes from star-studded Hollywood fundraisers, Commitment to Life resurrects one of the epidemic’s most compelling histories—in order that we never repeat it.
AUTOMAT PICTURES Presents COMMITMENT TO LIFE
Music by ALLYSON NEWMAN
With the Participation of GAY MEN’S CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES
Cinematography by ADAM JASON FINMANN
Edited by JEFFREY SCHWARZ
Associate Producer MICHAEL STABILE
Co-Producer TAKI OLDHAM
Executive Producer RON SYLVESTER
Produced by Aimée FLAHERTY
Produced and Directed by JEFFREY SCHWARZ
Producer / Director
Jeffrey Schwarz is an Emmy Award-winning producer and director based in Los Angeles. His latest documentary is The Fabulous Allan Carr which premiered at the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival. Previous work includes the 2015 SXSW premiere Tab Hunter Confidential; the Emmy Award-winning HBO Documentary Films’ Vito, the story of activist and author Vito Russo, founding father of the gay liberation movement; I Am Divine; Wrangler: Anatomy of an Icon; and the 2007 AFI FEST Documentary Audience Award Winner Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story.
He has also produced content on major studio releases for directors such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Jonathan Demme, Wes Craven, Rob Reiner, Barry Sonnenfeld, Adam Shankman, Paul Verhoeven, Chris Columbus and the Coen Brothers. Schwarz appeared in The Advocate’s “Out 100” in 2013 and was the recipient of the 2015 Frameline Award, which honors those who have made a major contribution to LGBT representation in film, television and the media arts.
Doctors and actors, singers and activists, entertainment industry titans and longtime survivors –the people integral to this story span the range of humanity. Through intimate new interviews and rare archival footage, theirs are the stories we tell.
From Joan Rivers’ appearance as the first celebrity to headline an AIDS fundraiser to the superstar power of Madonna, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler, Hollywood showed up. Elizabeth Taylor, Sharon Stone, Morgan Fairchild, Judith Light and scores of Hollywood’s biggest stars shined their light on the disease and brought the issue to America’s attention.
Commitment to Life will feature Hollywood actors and personalities of today including Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown, Kathy Griffin, Sharon Stone, Melissa Rivers, Bruce Vilanch, and Pauley Perrette who show us how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.
The First Responders
Forty years after publishing the first medical account of what would later be known as AIDS, Dr. Michael Gottlieb is still treating patients with HIV. He’ll tell us how he and Dr. Joel Weismann helped bring the disease to light, and we will hear first-hand accounts of what it was like on the front line in the AIDS Wards from the nurses who did the work others were unwilling to do.
Running a hotline for people with questions about the “gay cancer”… fighting a proposition that would quarantine anyone with the disease… creating a safe place for LGBTQ+ and POC communities… these are just a few of the monumental challenges taken on by activists across the city. We will hear from LA icon Jewel “Jewel’s Catch One” Thais-Williams and others about their work fighting the epidemic.
The people who lived through the period have their own stories to tell. We will meet Susan Bluestein, the wife of actor Brad Davis—who was compelled to conceal his HIV+ status; Paul Michael Glaser, the husband of the co-founder of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation; Jim J. Bullock, an HIV+ actor on one of the most popular sitcoms of the day, and Randal Kleiser, the director of a film about his lover’s suicide.
The success of the first AIDS fundraisers relied on the hard work of a few dedicated individuals and caught the attention of some of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. Barry Diller, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steve Tisch and Sandy Gallin threw their weight behind the effort, bringing in A-List talent and increased awareness of the epidemic. We talk to insiders including producer Howard Rosenman to find out how Hollywood’s elite stepped up to the plate.
Philadelphia. Longtime Companion. “Very Special Episodes” of TV shows featuring storylines about HIV. Hollywood brought these stories to the screen and gave HIV a face. Producer Jonathan Murray talks about Pedro Zamora’s inspirational role in MTV’s The Real World. Ron Nyswaner remembers writing the screenplay of Philadelphia, which would star Tom Hanks—one of Hollywood’s biggest and most supportive stars. Patrick Ian-Polk and Daniel Franzese talk about the depiction of HIV+ characters today.
Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2023
February 11-12, 2023
OUTshine – Miami
April 22, 2023
Rainbow Visions Edmonton
May 12, 2023
Inside Out Toronto LGBT Film and Video Festival
May 27, 2023
OUTwatch Film Festival Sebastopol
June 10, 2023