You can't watch We Were Here: The AIDS Years in San Francisco without being knocked over by the reminder: the ability of humans to heal is awe-inspiring, and the ability of humans to create chaos and destruction is equally impressive.We Were Here focuses on five people who were part of the epicenter of the early AIDS epidemic in San Francisco. They were caregivers, lovers, friends, activists and researchers during that time, and as they reflect back it is with eyes clearly clouded with memories of intense loss. For some the gay men amongst the interviewees, you can see the questions on their faces as they consider “why am I here when so many I have loved are gone?”
The interviews are interspersed with archival footage; it's impressive how the filmmakers were able to find the interviewees within crowd scenes. To listen to the interviewees narrate their personal stories while the larger stories are played out on the screen is a very poignant example of the personal as political and the political as personal. The intense honesty of the interviewees as they discuss the losses as they mounted around them makes you almost gasp. When one gay male interviewee, David (no last name is given) loses a second lover in a row, he describes his reaction simply “I thought I was going to have to kill myself.”
We Were Here is ultimately a story of hope within a situation of complete hopelessness, of people deciding to live while their government conspired to let them die.