Phil Zwickler was a journalist,
filmmaker, poet and gay activist who produced a prolific body of work
in the few short years before his death from AIDS in 1991. What mattered
to Phil in those years before the end of his life was making sure the
world knew exactly what was happening to his community-not only Gays and
Lesbians, but all those who had been exposed to the AIDS virus. In 1986,
Phil helped me establish Realis Pictures, a documentary production company.
His landmark film, Rights and Reactions, produced with Jane Lippman, brilliantly
documents the struggle of gays and lesbians to have "Intro 2"
(popularly known as "The Gay Rights Bill") passed by New York
City Council in 1986. His subsequent collaborations in 1988 with German
director Rosa von Praunheim (Positive and Silence Equals Death) revealed
to an international audience the courageous political and artistic responses
of the Gay and Lesbian community to the AIDS epidemic. Phil had been petrified
about these collaborations, particulary about Positive, which had meant
turning the camera on his own life and disclosing what he was going through
as someone who was "Sero-Positive". But
that film allowed Phil to break new ground in his own work. By 1989, he
had found his own voice. It was funny, angry, poetic, passionate and political.
And he was doing the best work of his career. Fear of Disclosure,
his collaborative, six minute video with the late artist David Wojnarowicz
(who died of AIDS in 1992), produced at Realis Pictures, takes a chilling
look at the issues of sex, death, love and dating for a sero-positive
gay man in the late 80's. His final project, Needle Nightmare (1991),
portrays Phil's gentler side as he struggles to come to terms with his
imminent death. Like everything else Phil did with his life, this final
work is angry, insightful and funny. He was 36 when he died. His final
days in the hospital were difficult ones made easier by the love and care
of his family and friends. He was angry at the injustice of it all and
we searched for ways to comfort him as his life was ending. I found that
simply talking about his work and how it was "getting out there"
provided him with some solace. It meant a lot to Phil to know that his
ideas would survive him.