‘5B’ Gets LA Premiere in June

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“5B,” a documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Dan Krauss about the early years of HIV and AIDS, will have its US premiere at LA Pride this week. The film debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim.

Directed by Krauss (“Extremis”), the film follows a small group of nurses and caregivers in San Francisco General Hospital’s ward 5B, who came together to provide care and compassion to patients affected by HIV and AIDS in the early 1980s.

Those who were HIV or had full-blown AIDS were stigmatized at a time when even doctors and scientist didn’t know much about the virus. Not knowing how the disease was transmitted, fearful hospital workers quarantined patients and wore HazMat protective clothing to examine patients and perform surgeries.

As a result, nurse Cliff Morrison led the initiative in 1983 to open a special unit dedicated to treating the AIDS patients. The nurses converted the residents’ sleeping quarters into the ward. Nurses volunteered for duty and insisted on the importance of touch, without gloves.

“5B” is the inspirational story of everyday heroes who took extraordinary action to comfort, protect and care for the patients of the first AIDS ward unit in the United States. The film is stirringly told through first-person testimony of the nurses and caregivers who built the ward.

The patients, loved ones and staff volunteered to create care practices based in humanity and holistic well-being during a time of great uncertainty. The result is an uplifting yet candid and bittersweet monument to a pivotal moment in American history, and a celebration of quiet heroes worthy of renewed recognition.

“I was a 10-year-old boy living in a suburb of San Francisco when the events in this film took place,” said Krauss. “Like many, I had no inkling of the courageous battles being fought in the name of compassion and care just a short distance away in the halls of San Francisco General Hospital.”

He continued, “The opportunity to share this little-known episode of history now, 35 years later, is an extraordinary honor.”

With no medical precedent, no idea how the disease was transmitted, and no hope for a cure in sight, the pioneering nurses of Ward 5B made the rules up as they went along, from throwing parties for patients, to allowing pets to visit, to recognizing same-sex significant others, which had never been done.

Their methods were considered so unorthodox and effective, that 5B not only became the world’s first AIDS ward, but it created the “compassionate care” model which was studied and formally adopted as the international standard of care.

Their contributions changed LGBTQ discourse and treatment. Though none of 5B’s early patients survived, for a small window, the nurses gave those diagnosed with AIDS a new reason to live and the chance to die with dignity.

After its premiere during a private screening during LA Pride, the film hits select theaters nationwide on June 14. In addition, 30% of net proceeds earned from the film will be donated to (RED)’s Global Fund

Krauss was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017 for his documentary short “Extremis,” about the doctors, families and patients forced to make end-of-life decisions. He also garnered a nomination in 2006 for his documentary “The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club,” about the suicide of South African photojournalist Kevin Carter, who was known for his harrowing photo of a starving girl being stalked by a vulture.

“5B’s” premiere at LA Pride is apropos as this is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The film, presented by RYOT, a Verizon Media company, is slated for a U.S. Celebrity Premiere at LA Pride as part of the Verizon Media’s groundbreaking sponsorship of the annual event as well as a the theatrical debut in June, with international releases and VOD distribution this fall.

Vic Gerami is an award-winning journalist and editor & publisher of The Blunt Post. Gerami is also the host and co-producer of the national headline news & politics program, THE BLUNT POST with VIC on KPFK 90.7 FM (Pacifica Network). The Wall Street Journal featured Gerami as a “leading gay activist” in its landmark 2008 coverage of opposition to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that for years denied same-sex couples in California the freedom to marry. In addition to his years of volunteer work as a leading advocate for marriage equality, Gerami served as a Planning Committee member for the historic Resist March in 2017. In 2015, Gerami was referenced in the landmark Supreme Court civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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