Most films about AIDS have focused on the effect the disease has had on the gay community, which is why film-maker Thom Fitzgerald thought it was time to show a different side to the epidemic.

Featuring an impressive cast including Lucy Liu, Chloe Sevigny, Stockard Channing, Sandra Oh and Olympia Dukakis, Fitzgerald’s confronting film 3 Needles looks at how HIV is being spread throughout China, South Africa and in Canada.

Liu stars as a woman running an illegal blood bank in rural China who jeopardises the health of an entire town. In South Africa, Sevigny, Dukakis and Oh play nuns who are out of their depth as they struggle to care for local villagers dying from AIDS.

And in Canada, Channing portrays a working class mum who learns her son, played by X-Men actor Shawn Ashmore, is HIV-positive and spreading the disease.

The film is being screened as a fundraiser for ACON on Friday 1 December -“ World AIDS Day -“ at the Chauvel Cinema, Paddington. It is being commercially released in the US on the same day.

The decision not to have a gay point of view came early, Fitzgerald, who wrote, directed and produced 3 Needles, said. (His debut film, The Hanging Garden in 1997, told of one gay man’s coming out.)

Part of what I was doing was looking for a more accurate face of AIDS. The number of gay people with AIDS represents such a tiny, tiny fraction of people in the world with AIDS.

There is no one face of AIDS, but if there was it would be female, and it would be young and it would be poor.

He said he knew his cast all felt passionately about getting these stories told because I wasn’t paying anyone very much.

They all very much wanted to be there and that makes a big difference.

For Fitzgerald, who described himself as a struggling Catholic, the film was almost like a prayer to God, he said.

It really started with my questions to God. Why in a world where we have a common enemy has humankind not put aside its differences in order to fight it?

God became a central metaphor in the film because, just like a virus, God is invisible, so really it’s the person looking at God who creates the face of God.

And as different as Christ is from Buddha, from the pagan gods, HIV is just as different from culture to culture, and I think that’s the answer to why we haven’t come together to fight it because we just don’t recognise it as the same enemy.

The ACON fundraising screening of 3 Needles is at 8:15pm on 1 December at the Chauvel Cinema, Paddington.

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