Hannelore Williams in conversation with Ann Northrop

On August 22, 2013, Visual AIDS along with the Pop Up Museum of Queer History and the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, held a public forum entitled, (re)Presenting AIDS: Culture and Accountability. The event was recorded and transcribed. Panelists we invited to present a short statement about their work related to AIDS, art, and representation. Audience members were also welcomed to take part in the conversation. Below, filmmaker Hannelore Williams speaks to moderator Ann Northrop about her film-in-progress, Dirty Thirty.

HANNELORE: Hello I am Hannelore Williams, I am nervous. I am a new voice in this conversation.

ANN: Welcome!

HANNELORE: I have created a doc series called Dirty Thirty and I just released the trailer for this week and basically my impulse to create this series was that I felt the narrative around HIV/AIDS in my personal experience was problematic on a lot of different levels.

So I wanted to create a series that I thought reflected the culture of HIV/AIDS. So I actually started shooting in Johannesburg for 3 weeks, I just got back. I went to LA, and Paris to shoot for a little bit, and then to the Bible Belt to explore, what does this mean. What are these symptoms in our culture that perpetuating the identity around HIV/AIDS today that I feel is not right? I grew up in a household where my stepfather died of AIDS—and I have a cousin who is working with AIDS—and no one was speaking about it. We were just sad when he died. No one actually spoke to my cousin about what his life was like, and I was like, that is not cool.

I can't really deal with the lack of conversation. Then I realized why we weren't talking, there were these cultural pods already not being addressed, so that is what my traveling is about. I just feel, what I am hearing today, I am really excited to join the conversation, as people who have been working in this a longer time than I have, I am sure you understand what it means to be a new person, so I hope I can tell this story. I am happy to be a room of people who understand.

ANN: Can I ask you a question or two? I have had the chance to see the trailer. So if you go on You Tube and search Dirty Thirty and search Hannelore Williams, you will find the trailer to her film. Dirty Thirty. Hannelore Williams. I found it very provocative because there were things in there that were really ignorant, so people who told me about it, said what is this going to be? With a little fear. One hand I am really excited to see it because it is what is out there and not covering up, and not trying to tell a politically correct story, it was really going at the reality of people's continuing questions and biases and ignorance, and I wonder if you are going to explore and confront that or what.

HANNELORE: Yes! I will I initially went to UCS and then I went to NYU and the first thing they teach you in film school is sugarcoat the pill, they are very big on genre and so forth.

ANN: They are in favor of sugar coating?

HANNELORE: They are in favor. I don't like the way things are now, but it does make things more consumable. So what it is, for instance, my sister, the way I got her to agree to it is that she always wanted to be in a reality show.

ANN: Which one?

HANNELORE: Housewives, basketball housewives. So basically what I said was, “Look, I am going to make a reality show about your experience with HIV/AIDS.” So I can look back and say to her, the ideas I am trying to excavate are these awful, very embarrassing things we say in our own lives, that our families have said, our communities have said, as if they are triggers. And then when you are triggered I want to delve in and explore what the effects are in our culture, and how that is perpetuating homophobia and how that is perpetuating people not getting tested. And what that perpetuates the spread of the disease.

I don’t think you can really address—the non political or scientific—I don’t think we can address the history of it until we really attack the problems of the community without addressing where we are being assholes all the time. We have to hold a mirror up to it. So I try to say that the series is going to explore what can be done but in the episodes I want to draw focus on the abstract ideals in our culture. And there is a whole interactive with the show that I didn't mention in the first trailer, but in the second trailer you will see there is a whole interactive look that looks at the history, and it is really educational.

Download the full transcript at: (re)Presenting AIDS transcript