Buddies (1985)

“AIDS is not a gay disease — it hurts everybody.”

Buddies Poster

Synopsis:
A young gay man (David Schachter) in New York City volunteers as a hospice “buddy” for a man (Geoff Edholm) dying of AIDS.

Genres:

Review:
Gay filmmaker Arthur J. Bressan died of an AIDS-related illness in 1987, two years after this quietly incendiary indie film was released. Bressan, eager to alert Americans to the increasingly dire spread of AIDS across the gay community and beyond, apparently wrote the film in a week and filmed it in two — but, despite its obvious low-budget and (at times) overly didactic script, it remains a surprisingly sincere and heartfelt two-character drama. In essence, it shows us Schachter’s growing political consciousness about homosexuality and AIDS, along with Edholm’s gradual acceptance of his impending death; perhaps predictably, hints of a (mostly one-sided) infatuation between the two emerges as well. But Bressan’s primarily goal with his film was to infuriate audiences about the American government’s apathy over the AIDS crisis — as Edholm’s character notes, there wasn’t even a single AIDS clinic in New York City at the time. To that end, Bressan’s decision to begin and end the movie by scrolling the names of people dying each day from AIDS in America (click on the poster thumbnail above to see a screenshot) is a particularly potent cinematic device, one that packs a punch almost as powerful as the rest of the film.

Note: Bressan’s Abuse (1983) — about a filmmaker initiating an affair with an abused gay teen — is also listed in Peary’s book, and is another noteworthy (albeit highly controversial) film to seek out.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • A touching portrait of friendship and caring in the face of death
    Buddies Friendship

Must See?
Yes, as the first American feature film about the AIDS pandemic. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.

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One Response to “Buddies (1985)”

  1. A must.

    I’m not sure if this is available on DVD or not (Netflix has had it available as an ‘Instant Watch’ for some time), but it’s quite a powerful little find. ‘Buddies’ is said to suffer from its low budget (although most low budget films suffer to some degree due to that) and its under-par acting.

    True, it doesn’t have the polish of some other AIDS-related films (‘Longtime Companion’, ‘Philadelphia’, etc.). But it’s surprisingly sharp, compact and moving. I don’t know who the two actors are (writer/director Bressan cleverly keeps other actors more or less off-screen to accent the main relationship). I’ve not seen them before or since. But they do a fine job and are very believable.

    I suppose the script is a bit didactic – but, as the assessment states, it has an urgent message, and it makes its point without hammering it home.

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