About "Dallas Buyers Club": “Ron Woodroof is an electrician and rodeo cowboy with a devil-may-care lifestyle who is blindsided with an HIV-positive diagnosis and given 30 days to live. He quickly finds a lack of approved medications in the U.S. and crosses the border into Mexico where he learns about alternative treatments and begins smuggling them into the U.S. Ron finds an unlikely ally in fellow AIDS patient Rayon, a transsexual who shares Ron's lust for life and entrepreneurial spirit. They establish a "buyers club," where HIV-positive people pay monthly dues for access to the newly acquired supplies. Deep in the heart of Texas, Ron's pioneering underground collective beats loud and strong as he fights for dignity, education, and acceptance.”
David Phillips says . . .
Three months after I was born, my maternal grandfather retired from the US Air Force following 27 years of military service. He was a father to me from age two onward, raising me on a steady diet of stories and images from the Pacific, particularly the island of Guam, during World War II. When I would inquire about differences in historical accounts, he would say “Send a million men into war, and they’ll wind up with at least a million histories to share.” And that’s just how I’ve always thought of the century plus of human co-existence with HIV: every story deserves to be told, but only a precious few ever will...and the power to tell those stories to diverse audiences lies with those with access to the storytelling tools.
When I began reading of efforts to produce “Dallas Buyers Club” several years ago, I could quickly think of hundreds of stories left untold from that place and time. Between the summers of 1981 and 1985 my grandparents had briefly retired to suburban Dallas while I was an undergraduate at Rice University in Houston, and I had come out in part amid the Dallas Gay and club drug scenes. Real or wannabe cowboys selling, scoring, or using cocaine in odd places were familiar to me, as was the spectrum of their outward expressions about dealing with fairies, faggots, homos, and queers. The fear and desperation of friends diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma or pneumocystis pneumonia or, later, simply HIV infection are seared into my psyche right alongside the terror I had experienced from a prolonged, unidentifiable mononucleosis-like illness.
And then there were the calls a few years later from friends doing business with a sketchy redneck named Ron Woodroof in order to access largely untested treatments for their HIV. Having seen my grandfather pursue a variety of snake oil and sham products following his colon cancer diagnosis in 1982, I was skeptical, yet compassionate: “It’s your money and your life!” “Sure, those options don’t sound as bad as AZT, but are you sure they’ll be any better?”
Against the backdrop of these memories and experiences, anger over the production, casting, and awards for “Dallas Buyers Club” has seemed terribly misplaced. Sure, there are many much nobler figures whose stories could have been told, but those stories haven’t necessarily come to the consciousness of a screenplay writer who would doggedly pursue the cause of recounting them for nearly 20 years. DBC, however, originated with a dispassionate August 9, 1992 profile of Woodroof and his buyers club by Bill Minutaglio for The Dallas Morning News. By August 12 a screenwriter named Craig Borten, captivated by Woodroof after reading Minutaglio’s work, was interviewing Woodroof with the intent of bringing the later chapters of his waning life to the big screen. After twenty years of withdrawals by producers, financiers, directors, and actors, “Dallas Buyers Club” finally achieved theatrical release, along with acclaim for many of those involved.
When the 2014 Oscars air, I will be rooting for “Dallas Buyers Club” and its cast among others. I’ll also remember many friends from Dallas of that time who lost their battles with HIV, including Victor Berry, Andrew Davis, and James Ratzell. And I’ll imagine the many HIV narratives yet to be told in the cinema: the Haitian father who suffered during the 1970s, a Black American teen named Robert in St. Louis, Missouri who died in 1965; a young adult female sex worker in 1940s Nairobi. Unlike Walter Armstrong, I can’t envision too many HIV narratives in motion pictures, particularly the ones not imbued with privilege of people most unlike me.