Video Data Bank, 2001
Habit is an autobiographical documentary that follows the current history of the AIDS epidemic along dual trajectories: the efforts of South Africa's leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, struggling to gain access to AIDS drugs and the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran AIDS activist in the U.S. who has been living with AIDS for more than ten years. The videomaker moves through his day, attending to mundane errands, eating, taking pills, having conversations with friends (some of whom have diseases such as AIDS and Breast Cancer, and others of whom are healthy), as recurring memories of a recent trip to South Africa interrupt the routine. Habit presents a rigorous working-through of ideas concerning privilege, ethics, responsibility, futility, solidarity, hope, and struggle.
The tension arising between the demands of AIDS activism and Bordowitz's increasing desire to explore aspects of his own life outside the framework of AIDS resulted in the appropriation of a work from the Soviet avant-garde: Nicolai Erdman's play The Suicide. The protagonist, Semyon, tries to unyoke himself from the enforced optimism of a bureaucratic order that prohibits any discussion of disappointment and despair following the revolution. Featuring Lothaire Bluteau as Semyon.
The thirty-five-minute film is staged as a reading of the great Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky's famous poem, written in 1914-1915. It was an attempt to go beyond the autobiographical mode of Fast Trip, Long Drop by appropriating the allegorical potential of another artist's work. Mayakovsky's poem is lyrical and didactic, romantic and materialist. It swings pendulously between two equally passionate commitments: political revolution and romantic love. The dynamic tension in the poem emanates from a conflict. The poet wishes for social transformation with every fiber of his being. But the revolution is a demanding lover: it requires the withdrawal from all other romantic interests. It demands fidelity. Featuring Dakid Rakoff as Mayakovsky.
Video Data Bank, 1993
In the spring of 1988, video-maker/activist Gregg Bordowitz tested HIV-antibody positive. He then quit drinking and taking drugs and came out to his parents as a gay man. This imaginative autobiographical documentary began as an inquiry into these events and the cultural climate surrounding them. While writing the film, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and his grandparents were killed in a car accident. The cumulative impact of these events challenged his sense of identity, the way he understood his own diagnosis, and the relationships between Illness and history.
Video Data Bank, 1986
Focusing on early media reportage of the AIDS epidemic and the struggle for gay rights, some aspect of a shared lifestyle begins with the outraged response of the gay community to the 1982 Supreme Court ruling upholding a sodomy law in the State of Georgia, effectively banning gay sex. Reframing the debate from one of moral calumny to a matter of the Constitutional right to privacy, Bordowitz successfully portrays the complexity of issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic as it emerged in the early 1980s in this country, forcefully arguing for the need to confront AIDS as an equal-opportunity threat to all members of society.