Gay-rights pioneer, playwright Kramer subject of new HBO doc

In the documentary “Larry Kramer in Love & Anger,” which screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and premiered June 29 on HBO, filmmaker Jean Carlomusto weaves together interviews with Kramer and other gay- rights leaders, shot over more than three decades with footage of street protests and tense activist meetings, to uncover the complex man at the heart of the story.

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When young gay men began dying in 1981 of a rare form of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma, waves of shock and fear spread throughout the gay community. The media coined the term “GRID,” for gay-related immune deficiency, until the term “AIDS” replaced it the following year.

Watching his friends die one after the other, author and screenwriter Larry Kramer knew he had to act. By 1982, he’d helped found Gay Men’s Health Crisis to provide support and needed services to people living with HIV and AIDS. In 1987, he founded the more militant ACT UP to demand political action to fight the epidemic of AIDS. As Kramer said in a TV interview during that era, “We have to start being powerful or we are going to die.”

In the documentary “Larry Kramer in Love & Anger,” which screened at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and premieres June 29 on HBO, filmmaker Jean Carlomusto weaves together interviews with Kramer and other gay- rights leaders, shot over more than three decades with footage of street protests and tense activist meetings, to uncover the complex man at the heart of the story.

The film begins in September 1991 at an AIDS forum in New York City. AIDS had already killed 150,000 people in the U.S., and the death rate showed no sign of slowing. Kramer took the podium. He looked tense, his brow furrowed, his head resting on his palm. Finally he broke his silence and screamed out the word no one wanted to hear: “Plague!” People around the world are despondent, he shouted, as his eyes searched the room as if looking for a solution. Throughout the film, Kramer is as fiery as a biblical preacher railing against apathy and effeteness, going so far as to call his fellow homosexuals “sissies” for not being aggressive in demanding more.

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