It’s time again for everyone’s favourite festival of LGBT-oriented films. I’m referring, of course, to Fairy Tales Film Festival, the weeklong celebration of everything cinematically queer. This being the festival’s 16th year in existence, organizers have opted to kick the week off in a very traditional manner; making us all watch a movie about a bunch of gay guys performing modern dance numbers and getting AIDS.
Test is a low-budget indie gem set in San Francisco in the year 1985 during the height of the AIDS scare. The opening narrative talks about how very little was known during this time about the threat of the AIDS virus, including how the virus is transmitted or what precautions people could take to ensure that they did not become infected. It was also the height of homophobia with a panicked country drawing uninformed conclusions about the nature of the virus and its connection to the homosexual community. As a result, gay men were routinely being treated as leapers as newspaper headlines pontificated about the possibility of a gay quarantine to keep the population safe from a major threat of outbreak.
The movie centres around our main protagonist, Frankie, a young dancer trying to make his way in the world of modern dance productions and his fellow cohorts facing discrimination and prejudice from the rest of their contemporaries. Against the backdrop of lovely and lively dancers readying themselves for an upcoming stage production, Frankie tries to find love and life while under the constant crushing worry that he, too, may be carrying the deadly and infectious disease. The audience is drawn into the extremely relatable daily situations and realities of a community under siege with even their own ranks turning against each other out of fear.
Being set in 1985, we are taken through the introduction and innovations of now-commonplace things such as condoms and the first available medical test for the AIDS virus. For anyone born after 1985 that are used to safer sex practices, it provides a deeper glimpse into the changing attitudes and circumstances that resulted in routine precautions and culture shifts that affect us to this very day. Much like watching the main character trying to use a landline with its complement of mess of tangled cord, we watch the characters fumble and try to use prophylactics, which were at the time considered to be outdated and old-fashioned.
Entertaining and informative, this film is an important time capsule to the ideas and occurrences that affected an entire generation, and in turn, a ripple effect that continues to affect the way we live, love, and explore human connection and intimacy. Chock full of historical tidbits, this thought-provoking film makes audiences consider the changing values, prejudices and social mores that affected millions of men at the time and that continue to affect a community at large. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll remember to pick up a box of Trojans and schedule your next sexual health check-up.
By Max Maxwell