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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Gay > Political > Common Threads - Tales From The Quilt (Documentary)

Common Threads – Stories From The Quilt


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B-     Film: B



One of the earliest films that successfully dealt with the AIDS crisis that made it to a wide audience was the Rob Epstein/Jeffrey Friedman film Common Threads - Tales From The Quilt (1989), which deservedly got the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.  This was at a time when the now-famous mega-blanket of cloth could actually be unrolled in a large area.  It is now so huge, that will never be possible again, though it is now on the internet.


Like the blanket itself, the film has been an undeniable reminder that this was and is a crisis that has not been solves and is not solved by a longshot.  For a film that is on its 15th Anniversary, it is actually a terrible thing that the film is holding up well, too well for our own good.  It did a phenomenal job of breaking in valid awareness, but the crisis is still unresolved and worse, with the virus having transmuted quite a bit in the time span since.  Newer drugs have only prolonged life and cut down on suffering.


Dustin Hoffman narrates the program which starts on the specific stories of some of those sewn into the actual quilt, then starts going into news footage about how the crisis arrived and too few cared enough to try and stop it.  The loss of people is a reminder of the loss of too many of the early battles that will cost tens of millions of lives to come, if not more.  When all is said and done, this will be seen as a sad marker of an uglier nightmare to come, especially on how the Religious Right did everything they could to destroy the Gay Community with it.  After watching this film, you will see how that was the seed for Gays to become more mainstream.


The full frame image is from a good video master of the original film footage, but has limits.  Depth and detail are not the best for such an image on DVD, but it is better than most.  It is color correct.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good for its age and is clear enough to hear all of the dialogue.  Extras include a recent audio commentary by the directors that updates things nicely, a new short (shot on tape) from them about AIDS by today and how activists and doctors dealt with it to date, a photo gallery, and activist Vito Russo’s speech with the ACT UP organization that lasts about nine minutes.  This is a solid set of extras to enhance an important documentary work that is overdue to reach a new audience.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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