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Australia 2016
Directed by
Nickolas Bird / Eleanor Sharpe
83 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3.5 stars

Remembering The Man

Synopsis: Tim Conigrave and John Caleo were schoolboys in the mid-1970s at an exclusive Melbourne Catholic boys’ school. They fell madly in love and despite disapproval and numerous challenges went on to have a long relationship. But when the threat of HIV emerged, even greater challenges to their love ensued.

If you loved Holding the Man you shouldn’t miss Remembering the Man, which was the centrepiece feature of the recent Melbourne Queer Film Festival. Whilst Holding the Man was the feature film made of John and Tim’s story, based upon Tim’s posthumously published memoirof the same name. Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe’s documentary uses interviews, photos and archival footage to tell the real story.

Publicity for the film bills it as the true story of how Romeo met Romeo and not without justice. In the homophobic ‘70s for gays there was all manner of obstacles to contend with, from parental disapproval, to church opprobrium to outright discrimination from society at large. How the young boys grew to manhood,  preserved their relationship and coped with all this is affectionately documented, and the many interviews with friends from this time throws a spotlight on how loved and supported the pair were.

Just as in the biopic Amy, where there seemed to be always a video camera present, so it was with Tim and John. As a result we have copious amounts of footage from the era, capturing much about their real personalities in the way a feature film cannot (as much as Craig Stott who plays John in the feature film looks like the real John).

While friends, carers, and colleagues share their memories and perceptions, best of all, much of the narration , taken from a taped recording made as a response to the AIDS oral history project is by Tim himself just before his death,. We really get a sense of the trauma gay men went through seeing so many of their number being struck down by this seemingly unstoppable illness.

The film is not only an homage to an enduring love, but also an important record of an era. Tim himself was quite an activist and we get terrific footage of early drama pieces he wrote about AIDS/HIV. In several clips we see hatred-filled people like the Rev Fred Nile, as well as politicians, denouncing “poofters”, fuelling prejudice and making life all the worse for these men already grappling with tragedy.

While retaining moments of humour Remembering the Man is not only very moving but carries an important reminder that we must remain vigilant in ensuring that as a society we remain open and understanding to all.




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