I finally got the chance to see one of the most talked about projects this year—“3 Needles”. Written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald (“Beefcake”, “The Hanging Garden”) is sheer staggering emotion. A powerful statement about the worldwide spread of AIDS, it takes us to places where we would never dream of going. Made up of three stories told back to back, it is gloriously filmed and has a terrific cast. Fitzgerald has made this a wonderfully personal movie and he uses such subjectivity in the telling of the stories that the viewer cannot help but feel involved.
We begin our viewing at a public circumcision ceremony somewhere in Africa. As the boys move into manhood, by virtue of the ceremony, they are taught the way to be men by learning the tricks of fighting. The circumcision ceremony is one of the oldest rites known to mankind having roots in the Old Testament from the story of Abraham and Isaac.
We then movie to Asia, to China where we come across Jin Ping (played by Lucy Liu). She is the director of an underground blood bank where the blood is contaminated by the HIV virus. Additionally we are told that Jin Ping is HIV positive and pregnant and works to support her husband who is also carrying the virus. We see her deliver her child alone, with no help from anyone and feel her pain and loneliness.
And then we are off to Canada and meet Denys, an HIV positive porn star. In order to continue making porn films he must maintain a negative HIV status. He supports his family by his career in porn and to assure that he can continue making film, he steals blood from his father which he substitutes as his own. When his mother learns of his positive status, she also hears that AIDS patients are allowed to cash in their life insurance policies early. She infects herself so that she can get the money in order to provide a comfortable life for her herself and her son after her husband dies.
Back in South Africa three nuns have set up a hospice to treat villagers infected with HIV. It is here that we see the boys from the beginning of the film have now become men and are facing a world that is being devastated by AIDS.
These scenarios are beyond our imagination. When Denys mother infected herself for a life insurance payment, I realized how little we know and how much we have not really progressed. The cinema photographer of the film, Tom Harting, has done superior work on this film. It probably would have succeeded as a visual metaphor without words—such is the beauty of the camera work. The acting is simply stupendous, both the stars and the unknowns turn in magnificent performances. I watched the film alone but I am sure that if there had been someone else there they would have remarked that my eyes were as big as saucers. The sheer beauty of the film seems incomprehensible in retrospect but because of the nature of the material I am not yet ready to see it a second time. I know one day I will but first I want to let the initial feelings sink in.