Film Courage: Robin before we talk about [your new film] BEATS PER MINUTE [original title is 120 battements par minute], I want to go back to the 1990’s when I understand you had some some affiliation with Act Up-Paris?
Robin Campillo: Yes.
Film Courage: Can you take us back to that time?
Robin Campillo: Yes. I was in Act Up-Paris in ’92. To be very clear on the whole story it was 10 years after the beginning of the epidemic in France who started explaining in the newspapers because it was related to what was going on in your country in the United States. We heard that there was the kind of epidemic there and also here.
I was 20 in 1982, so I was like a young gay guy and I discovered all of these things that were going on and I thought it was a very bad science fiction thing, that it was a kind of curse because in France the newspapers were saying that most of the gay people we were going to die… gay men…that we were going to die of this disease. So it was really, really terrible. But at the same time we were shown as the principle victim of this epidemic with IV drug users, prostitutes, prisoners. There was no communication towards us. So we were the victims but no one was going to do anything. It was this kind of indifference. I was so afraid during these 10 years of what was going on. Lots of the people that I knew were going to the hospital. It was a very weird atmosphere of fear. Especially for a gay man, it was like we were going back to the closet because of this epidemic.
Because I lost a friend of mine and I was not authorized to visit him in the hospital I was so angry because it was like we were kind of a couple (of course we were young) so we were a kind of couple. But our being a couple didn’t happen, it didn’t exist.
So I was very cross and I went to Act Up in 1992 because of this anger that was in me. I came to this group and it’s like in the film, I was a newcomer and you had this guy who was introducing you to the group and who was explaining all the rules which were which were inspired by the Act Up-New York and Act Up-San Francisco groups.
And after you were in this meeting and you didn’t understand anything and I didn’t know anyone and it was like jumping in the swimming pool and trying to swim. I want the spectators to relive this experience.
Film Courage: Did you go with the group [Act Up-Paris] to any of the expeditions or protests?
Robin Campillo: You have to know that I didn’t do a historical film. I did this film out of my memories. I didn’t try to make a historical film. I tried to reconnect myself to the emotions, sensations, the sensory reality and the sensuality that we were going through at this time. Because all of that is also political and so I tried to use all of the memories and I have a lot of very vivid memories. Because it was like when I was in the group I was like a recording machine and maybe unconsciously I was constructing my film at the same time that I was living this story. Maybe…I don’t know?
But it took me like 6 months to write it down and I did it just with my memories. All that you see in the film happened and I was part of quite all of these actions and expeditions (as you say) and all of the debates also. I tried to put all of this memory in a kind of perspective and I try to find some kind of contradictions, oppositions between the characters, which were very important and meaningful to me at the time.
Film Courage: So you decided to write the script at what point? These memories lived in you for many, many years, and why [write it] now?
Robin Campillo: You know, I don’t know why. It’s very weird. I had this conversation like 7 or 8 years ago I think because I was preparing my previous film EASTERN BOYS and I was with my producers. One of my producers was a friend of Act Up. He was a former militant. We were joking and were with about 10 people, technicians and the other producer who was a woman (Marian Christiani) and with my friends and producer we were kind of joking because I was telling them that I wanted to have more days of shooting…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
In Paris in the early 1990s, a group of activists goes to battle for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. The organization is ACT UP, and its members, many of them gay and HIV-positive, embrace their mission with a literal life-or-death urgency. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, the newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s radical firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough.
WATCH BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE)
CONNECT WITH ROBIN CAMPILLO
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A wig-wearing girl and sculptor cross paths in a string of chance encounters until they confront each other head-on, in disguise. COVER by J.Y. Chun – Now on Kickstarter!