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We Were Here: A film worth remembering 

***1/2

WE WERE HERE

***1/2

DIRECTED BY David Weissman & Bill Weber

STARS Paul Boneberg, Ed Wolf

A powerful film that absurdly failed to snag a Best Documentary Feature Oscar nomination this year (despite making the Academy's shortlist), We Were Here is a nonfiction piece in the old-school style. Forgoing the catchy graphics, gotcha tactics and in-your-face stylistics popularized by the likes of Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, directors David Weissman and Bill Weber turn to the two oldest tricks in the book — talking-head interviews and archival footage — to carry their film. It's all they need.

We Were Here focuses on San Francisco in the early 1980s, when a mysterious new disease began decimating that city's gay population. Some called it "the gay cancer"; others called it "the gay plague"; eventually, everyone was calling it AIDS. Weissman and Weber structure their film around modern-day interviews with five individuals who witnessed the carnage firsthand: Paul Boneberg, Guy Clark, Eileen Glutzer, Daniel Goldstein and Ed Wolf. These San Franciscans relate in grisly detail the horrors that befell their friends and loved ones, from the lightning-quick manner in which death would take people away to the abhorrently indifferent attitude of politicians like Ronald Reagan and Lyndon LaRouche, the latter pushing for a quarantine of all AIDS sufferers. Yet the five also note the triumphs of the time; specifically, the manner in which the entire community came together as one to work as caretakers, sounding boards, activists, errand boys or whatever other job needed filling.

We Were Here ultimately serves as a tribute — not only to those who are no longer with us, but also to those who crossed the minefield and emerged as survivors, storytellers and heroes.

(The Charlotte Film Society will present We Were Here at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 7, at Theatre Charlotte, 501 Queens Road. A discussion with different guests will accompany each screening. General admission is $8. For details, go to www.charlottefilmsociety.com.)

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