New Frontline Feature Examines The AIDS Epidemic In Black America

Courtesy: PBS/WGBH/BlackPublicMedia.org, Ford Foundation, MAC AIDS Fund, Corporation For Public Broadcasting/MacArthur Foundation/Reva & David Logan/Park Foundation/Frontline Journalism Fund

AIDS has devastated America since it first began appearing in the early 1980s.  When it first became known, it was thought to be a disease only of homosexual males.  Since that time though, knowledge of the disease and how to treat it has broadened.  Despite that knowledge, AIDS continues to ravage one group more than any other.  And it isn’t the gay community.  As presented by PBS’ Frontline, the community that is still being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic is the African American community.

In its new special, Frontline examines in an unbiased manner, the spread of AIDS in the black community.  It examines the factors that have led to the spread of the disease and the stigma attached to those who have contracted it, both straight and homosexual.  The stories told firsthand by those who contracted the disease are both powerful and moving.  And learning how widespread the disease is in the Black community is just as eye opening.  Through the program’s near two-hour run time, there is a message of hope that it can at least be reduced and slowed if not wiped out.

The stories told firsthand by those who contracted the AIDS virus come from members of every walk of the African American community.  On one hand, there is Nel.  Nel is sixty-three years old and a grandmother.  Nel married a deacon in her church who it turned out had lied to her about being HIV positive.  Even upon being confronted by her, he still lied about it.  Another story is that of a young woman who ended up contracting the disease from a man after having unprotected sex with a man she thought was Mr. Right.  And in another, audiences are presented the case of Jovante.  Jovante is a football player who ended up contracting the disease from his partner.  It shows the far reaching impact of the disease and the personal emotion felt by each victim. 

The feeling that each victim experiences illustrate the stigma still attached to the disease even three decades after it first appeared.  That stigma crossed lines of straight and gay.  Even more interesting is that the stigma itself was more self-imposed than having been placed on them by those around the subjects interviewed.  That is one of the most interesting aspects of this documentary.  That victims regardless of straight or gay would self-impose the stigma is a powerful statement.  Some claimed that they didn’t talk about it because they believe the stigma.  But the vibe of the general public was not one of subjugation, but of acceptance.  That comparison is subtle.  But it’s more than enough to generate lots of discussions.

Also sure to create is a segment of the program highlighting former President George W. Bush’s pledge to send aid to Africa to help fight the AIDS epidemic there, too.  It provides the clip from Bush’s State of The Union address in 2003 in which he publicly pledged millions in aid to fight the disease throughout Africa’s nations.  Whether political or otherwise, this is a moment that is certain to lead to discussions, too.  The inclusion of interviews with NBA Magic Johnson will lead to just as many discussions.  It’s interesting the view that some developed on AIDS after seeing that Johnson recovered.  It actually created a hope.  And that sense of hope is what viewers are left with by the program’s end.

While there is still work to be done in terms of education and other aspects, there is hope that cases of AIDS can be vastly reduced if not wiped out with proper education among America’s Black communities.  The education must be spread to African Americans of all ages.  From education about abstinence and contraception to general knowledge about AIDS, it can combine to finally lead to the endgame in question for Aids in Black America.

Endgame:  Aids in Black America is available now on DVD.  It can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store, http://www.shoppbs.org.

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ESPN’s 30 for 30 blu-ray reissue is the best box set of the year

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is known as the worldwide leader in sports.  There’s a good reason for that.  The release of the network’s “ESPN Films Volume 1” box set last year is an excellent example of what makes ESPN truly the worldwide leader in sports.  Now with the recent release of the “30 for 30” Limited Edition Collector’s Set on blu-ray, ESPN has proven its reputation even more than ever.  This collection includes all thirty films from the original DVD and blu-ray sets released in 2011, and adds in a nice piece of memorabilia to sweeten the deal.  All together, they make up what is easily the best box set of the year.

ESPN’s “30 for 30” Limited Edition Collector’s set on blu-ray boasts all thirty films from the originally released sets.  Choosing just one film from the set as the best is impossible.  Each viewer will have his or her favorite film from the six disc set.  There are, however, at least a few films that that stand out to this individual as standing out as some of the set’s best.  One of those films jumps into the world of baseball, in “The House of Steinbrenner.”  “The House of Steinbrenner” follows the final days of the old Yankee stadium and the early days of the new stadium.  Along the ride, audiences are given a history on the man who brought the Yankees and their historic stadium to prominence.  The stories shared by players and fans alike of the old Yankee Stadium show a true love of the structure.  It was more a living, breathing museum than just a stadium.  It was a place where cultures crossed and everybody lived in harmony.  That’s because they were all one.  They were all Yankee proud.  The reactions to its final days make the mixed reactions to the new Yankee Stadium that much harder hitting.  The mixed views on Steinbrenner are just as interesting.  One former Yankee player worded it best in saying that in regards to Steinbrenner, “you loved him and hated him in the same breath.”  Interviews with players, fans, journalists, and even Steinbrenner himself give an unexpected view of “The Boss.”  The interviews shared in “The House of Steinbrenner” show a man who understood business and who also understood the fans.  They show that perhaps Steinbrenner’s only true flaw was that he cared too much about his team.

The George Steinbrenner presented in this film was a very shrewd business man.  He was also a devoted fan among fellow fans.  He wanted the team to win.  He wanted it for the fans and for himself.  That inability to ever fully balance business and fandom was ultimately why he was such a polarizing figure.  Despite his bad reputation among countless legions, just as many were and are still devoted to him today.  Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner has forged not only his legacy, but that of the Yankees, too.  He will never be forgotten for that.  That’s especially the case now, with this incredible film.

George Steinbrenner was polarizing, to say the least.  But he’s not the only figure of such stature featured in the new “30 for 30” blu-ray re-issue.  Another of the interesting figures featured in the set from an entirely different world.  His name is Tim Richmond.  In the film, “Tim Richmond:  To the Limit”, director Rory Karpf follows the life of NASCAR legend Tim Richmond. Richmondwas obviously polarizing.  He was polarizing in that he was the immediate antithesis of NASCAR’s old guard.  He was the rock star of the racing world at that time.  He had an innate ability to drive the wheels off of any race car, both in open wheel or stock car.  He proved that he could have been the future of NASCAR.  Sadly, after being diagnosed with AIDS, his meteoric rise was cut short.  Fans are reminded in this film of the stigma attached to AIDS because of the lack of knowledge surrounding it at that time.  It shows just how far the world has come since then.  Unluckily for him, the world didn’t have that knowledge that people have today.  As a result, viewers learn that he was forced to cover up the illness, in hopes that he’d be able to return to racing one day.  That obviously didn’t happen.

In the time since the passing of Tim Richmond, the reputations of both NASCAR and AIDS victims has greatly changed.  There is no denying that Tim Richmond played at least some role in that change.  And it’s thanks to this film that his role in both the AIDS and NASCAR community will always be remembered.

The films included in the new “30 for 30” blu-ray re-issue focus on many famous figures in sports.  But they also focus on who teams.  And just like George Steinbrenner and Tim Richmond were polarizing figures, so was the SMU football team a polarizing unit.  It was thanks to the Mustangs’ infamous 1987 “death penalty” that the NCAA established the reforms that govern college sports today.  In “Pony Express”, director Thaddeus D. Matula takes viewers into the scandal that rocked the sports world as a whole.  It killed not one, but two of the university’s football seasons in a row.  The film does note that the second dead season was self-imposed by the university.  And it all started thanks to one player.  One might think that by the film’s end, the story’s over.  That’s anything but the truth.  Video footage from ESPN, along with voice snippets, show that even today, universities have either not paid attention to the SMU scandal or have forgotten it.

It is interesting to note that one individual interviewed in this film states that the NCAA would likely never use the “death penalty” again on another team.  But considering that recent number of scandals that have rocked universities across the country, maybe the NCAA should reconsider using it.  After all, it was once said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. 

The documentaries featured in this blu-ray re-issue are just a drop in the bucket of what makes it a great set for any sports fan.  Combined with the remaining films in the set, and the bonus ESPN hat, this new “30 for 30” blu-ray re-issue has easily made itself the best box set of the year.  It can be ordered online now at http://ESPNshop.com.  

To keep up with all the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.