06/13/2012 09:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We Were Here: Powerful New AIDS Documentary Is The First Of Its Kind (VIDEO)

A powerful new documentary chronicles the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco, which plagued the city's flourishing gay community in the early 1980s.

"We Were Here" is the first film of its kind to take a deep look at how the city's residents were affected by and responded to the catastrophic epidemic.


The film explains how San Francisco's compassionate, resourceful and creative response to the disease became known as "The San Francisco Model." It focuses on five individuals who lived in the city prior to AIDS and considers the drastic changes their lives underwent as San Francisco transformed from a hub of sexual freedom to the epicenter of a fatal sexually transmitted infection.

"The first time I heard about AIDS it was called 'the gay cancer'. We had friends who were dying right at the beginning of the epidemic," one subject says in the documentary.

Filmmakers David Weissman and Bill Weber, famous for their 2001 exploration of the city's legendary theater troupe The Cockettes, poignantly portray a moment that completely changed the way the world viewed the gay community.

The film debuted in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, 30 years after AIDS arrived in the United States. It simultaneously offers a chance at understanding for those who weren't there and provides a cathartic experience for a generation who suffered.

As one man profiled in the preview comments, "None of my friends are around from the beginning, so I want to tell their story as much as I want to tell my story."

"We Were Here" premieres on PBS this Thursday, June 14. For more, read filmmaker David Weissman's blog post and take a look at the preview below:

Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly identified the documentary as premiering on CBS, not PBS.