Joseph Kuhn's new short film, Now Here, explores the theme of mortality as it impacted a generation of gay men during the AIDS crisis. Although the crisis unfolded when the young director was still a child, his portrayal of the caustic environment that surrounded gay culture during the 80s and 90s, due to the threat of disease, is as vivid as if he had lived through it himself.
Perhaps it takes the passage of time, even of a generation, to absorb the trauma of a great tragedy and express it in art. As Joseph's older friends recounted to him the ways they found to deal with the epidemic, he began to realize that there was a significant generation gap in the gay community. He resolved to bridge that gap in his film, telling the story of an extreme choice that illustrates the desperation of the time.
In Now Here, Kuhn tackles on one of the most baffling and heart-wrenching responses to the AIDS crisis. The time is 1985. It was the year before the cause of AIDS, the retrovirus HIV, was given a name. It was two years before treatment with the antiretroviral drug, AZT, became available. We see Franco who has just lost his lover to AIDS.
Destiny vs. choice or control is exactly the dichotomy Franco, the lead character, is wrestling with in the movie. In 1985, when people still didn't know how you got it or how to test for the illness, many thought that infection was inevitable. They felt it was their destiny. So Franco's actions on the night of his birthday give him a sense of control in the matter. He will control when he is infected, because it is the only source of control in his life at the time.
Driven by his grief over the loss of his lover, his feelings of helpless rage, Franco makes a desperate attempt to regain some measure of control over his fate by choosing to engage in risky, unprotected sexual encounters, deliberately exposing himself to the deadly virus. This shockingly destructive behavior makes the fear, loss and self-loathing of the time palpable.
The aesthetics of the film also serve to recall the gritty atmosphere of New York at that time. A 35mm lens from the 1970's was used to shoot the film and developing process was engineered to achieve a grainy look. The film was shot while Joseph Kuhn attended The Tisch School of the Arts at NYU. Leonardo D'Antoni was the director of photography.
NOW HERE premiered at Palm Springs International Shortfest, and then went on to screen at Outfest in LA and Newfest in New York.