By Josh Inocéncio
A taste of the Cannes Film Festival will arrive in Houston on December 3 with the QFest screening of BPM (Beats per Minute) at Rice University in observance of World AIDS Day. The film, which is France’s official foreign language submission for the 2018 Academy Awards, follows a group of ACT UP members in Paris—nearly a decade after the AIDS crisis began—as they bring attention to the epidemic. At the Cannes, BPM won four awards including the Grand Prix prize—second only to the top Palme d’Or award.
Originally founded in the United States by activist Larry Kramer, the militant ACT UP group used upfront strategies to demand local and national action amid the devastation of AIDS to gay communities. And the film doesn’t shy away from portraying these tactics: not only are meetings loudly interrupted, but activists hurl balloons filled with artificial blood at those in power.
The movement—detailed with personal touches in David France’s How to Survive a Plague—inspired international chapters, including in Paris. The director of BPM, Robin Campillo, and co-writer Philippe Mangeot, infused elements of their own autobiographies and involvement with ACT UP-Paris into the film. As The Atlantic notes, “That authenticity shines through constantly—this is a film that operates on a granular level and finds real tension in debates over the meaning and manner of dissent.”
Critics have mostly beamed over the film, propelling it to international critical success. The New York Times’ A.O. Scott writes, “All of this happened a long time ago, of course, but in spite of its historical specificity, BPM never feels like a bulletin from the past.” Similarly, Variety’s Guy Lodge praises, “Queer in its perspective and unafraid of eroticism in the face of tragedy, this robust Cannes competition entry is nonetheless immediate enough to break of the LGBT niche.”
Kristian Salinas, the organizer for QFest, promoted its relevance, saying, “BPM has resonated with many individuals too young to have lived through the AIDS crisis, but who are becoming aware of just how fragile and tentative the progress made by our community can be.”
In Houston, QFest will show the film on Sunday, December 3, at 3 p.m. at Rice Cinema. Following the showing, QFest is partnering with Guava Lamp for an after-party at the Montrose gay bar. The Facebook event provides information on both the showing and the after-party, encouraging Houstonians to “join us for this very special day to celebrate those who fought with their lives to bring our entire community to a time and place in which treatments such as PrEP, PEP, and even Treatment as Prevention point us to a foreseeable future in which AIDS can and will be eventually eradicated.” All ticket sales will benefit QFest.