Jose Ramirez is the Youth Project Coordinator for La Clinica del Pueblo, a non-profit, health center that serves the Latino and immigrant populations of the Washington metro area.
By ANDY WEBSTER
Published: September 16, 2010
Washington has long seemed like the federal government's illegitimate child, denied statehood and degrees of autonomy. Congress's neglect extends to the city's H.I.V. epidemic, a situation made agonizingly clear in Susan Koch's quietly unblinking documentary, "The Other City." The title derives from Washington's split personality: as the illustrious home of politicians and monuments, and as a metropolis with the highest H.I.V. infection rate in the country.
Journalists (Frank Rich of The New York Times, Colbert I. King of The Washington Post); advocates (the writer Larry Kramer); and politicians (Adrian M. Fenty, the mayor of Washington; Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat) offer viewpoints, and the film rolls out disturbing statistics, the most alarming being the city's increase in reported H.I.V.-AIDS cases from 2006 to 2007: 22 percent.
But the most effective voices belong to those with H.I.V., all evincing a visceral sense of mission. J'Mia Edwards is a mother of three struggling to obtain subsidized housing; Ron Daniels is a former drug addict working for a needle-exchange program; JosŽ Ramirez is a gay Latino infected at 17, now dedicated to promoting AIDS awareness among teenagers.
The film's most vivid presence is seen but barely able to speak: Jimmy, a gay man in his 30s dying at Joseph's House, an AIDS hospice. Anyone who has kept a deathbed vigil will relate to his suffering and his family's, and perhaps arrive at a sense of just how universal this epidemic truly is.
THE OTHER CITY
Opens on Friday in New York, Los Angeles and Washington.
Directed by Susan Koch; written by JosŽ Antonio Vargas; director of photography, Neil Barrett; edited by Jeff Werner; music by Charlie Barnett, songs by John Legend; produced by Sheila C. Johnson; released by Cabin Films. In Manhattan at the Chelsea Cinemas, 260 West 23rd Street. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. This film is not rated.