After Louie, a film centered on the evolution of the AIDS crisis in present day New York City, had its East Coast premiere as the centerpiece of the NewFest last weekend. The premiere was attended by a full cast and its director, Vincent Gagliostro, and sponsored by ACT UP New York (Aids Coalition to Unleash Power).
The film revolves around Sam Cooper (Alan Cumming), a middle-aged gay man, and his relationship with the much younger Braeden O’Reilly (Zachary Booth). Before the film, Gagliostro took to the microphone to thank his entire staff, from his makeup artist to his production assistants to his set designers, and conclude with a few words from LGBT activist and author Vito Russo, to whom the premiere was dedicated.
“Someday the AIDS crisis will be over,” Gagliostro quoted. “Remember that. And when that day comes — when that day has come and gone, there’ll be people alive on this earth — gay people and straight people, men and women, black and white, who will hear the story that once there was a terrible disease in this country and all over the world, and that a brave group of people stood up and fought and, in some cases, gave their lives, so that other people might live and be free.”
After the film, the cast was invited to the front of the theater for a panel question-and-answer session. An audience member asked Cumming how he dealt with taking his character into an “unlikeable zone.”
“As actors, we want people to like us, we just do,” Cumming said. “When you’re a performer, you’re used to trying to make your character appealing in some way, even if they’re a bad character. You want to find the good in them. It was quite hard for me to actually not be charming, to switch off that thing that I’m just used to doing. That’s another reason I said yes to play the part – because I usually playing evil people…charming in a way. But this was kind of someone who was so closed off. But he has a journey.”
In response to a question about the most effective comment he has ever received from an audience member, Gagliostro gave an anecdote about one of the first screenings in New Orleans, where he was approached by two transgender youth. “This film…is to give the younger people the freedom not to hold up these gold standards, and to kind of look into the issues that best concern them,” he said in regards to the classic ACT UP slogans.
“That was then, and this is now,” Gagliostro continued. “Now is very, very different. And maybe they’ll come up with a way to deal with the freak in the White House.”
Cumming, answering the same question, told of the After Louie screening in San Francisco. He had been seated on the aisle, far away from his mother and mother-in-law, to avoid awkwardness during the sex scenes. “But I was glad I sat on the aisle,” Cumming said. “At one point I looked over and there’s this man – older, gay man – weeping. Just weeping uncontrollably.Aand I just thought, this is what its all about. This is why you do films like this. This is why you’re an artist. Because you make people feel that they’re being heard. That their stories are being told.”