An interview with Last Men Standing’s filmmaker Erin Brethauer

On World AIDS Day, Reel Causes is honoured to partner with the Positive Living Society of BC to present the Vancouver premiere of the poignant new documentary Last Men Standing, about long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS.

We chatted with one of the film’s directors Erin Brethauer to learn more.

What inspired you to make Last Men Standing?
Last Men Standing started with Erin Allday, the health reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. During her reporting on HIV she started hearing about the men who were diagnosed during the height of the AIDS epidemic, during the days when it was a death sentence. She started meeting the men who survived somehow and proposed it as a project to the Chronicle editors. Tim Hussin and I were brought in to work on the story through video. After interviewing the eight men in the film, we realized that the stories were so rich that we were compelled to make a feature film.

What are some challenges you had to overcome in making this documentary?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was figuring out how to weave together the structure of the film. We tried to strike a delicate balance between sharing their experiences during the early days of AIDS and their current situations as long-term survivors.


Is there a particular person/story in Last Men Standing that resonated with you the most?
I know this is a film about long-term HIV survivors but I think that everyone can relate to the very human struggles these men face. I learned so much from each of them, but the biggest take away for me is that humans can be so resilient. We can choose to move forward in life with openness and love despite living through terrible adversity and suffering.

How do you think the documentary will resonate with HIV/AIDS survivors in Vancouver?
I hope the documentary resonates with your audience in Vancouver by creating a safe space for people to revisit this painful era and process what happened. I hope it promotes understanding for the challenges these long-term survivors face today and starts conversations about what communities can do better in helping them. I also hope it gives younger viewers a greater understanding of this era.

What kind of action (and reaction) have you had from filmgoers who haven’t been personally affected by HIV/AIDS?
At other screenings we’ve had people tell us that going to the film helped them break through their isolation. Others told us it made them feel empowered. Someone told me the film helped him better understand family members who are gay and lived through that era. I think the film creates a space for us to listen to these stories and empathize.

What: Reel Causes ‘Remembering the Survivors’ event, an evening of awareness and discussion on HIV/AIDS, Vancouver premiere of film Last Men Standing, in support of the Positive Living Society of BC
When: World AIDS Day, Thursday December 1, 2016; doors 6:30 pm, show time 7:00 pm
Where: SFU Woodward’s Djavad Mowafaghian Theatre – 149 W. Hastings St, in the historic Woodward’s district
Tickets: $5 (with Reel Causes membership), $15 in advance online or at the door

The film is co-presented with Reel Causes’ friends at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

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About Reel Causes Society

Reel Causes partners with filmmakers and Canadian causes dedicated to addressing global social justice issues. We host film screenings followed by a Q&A session to educate and inspire our community, and provide a forum for authentic conversation aroundF the issues that affect us locally.

City of Vancouver
BC Arts Council
Canada Council for the Arts
SFU's Vancity Office of Community  Engagement
Consumer Protection BC