BPM (Beats per Minute) ★★★★½

In my senior year of college, I researched the rise of the HIV epidemic for a competitive speech. It took me several months to compile all of the necessary literature, I conducted interviews, I poured over articles and books -- and what I found was truly staggering, heartbreaking... but equally as empowering.

Years later, with a passion for the subject, I wrote my Master's thesis over mediated portrayals of HIV through a more contemporary lens. Again, I read and read, learning so much as I went. People would often ask me what about HIV in the LGBTQ+ community sparked my interest so much, and I could never find the right words to describe it.

BPM is miraculous filmmaking because, for the first time, I didn't need to explain my passion for this subject -- the film was doing it for me. Set against the backdrop of 1990's queer culture, BPM explores the Paris chapter of ACT UP, an advocacy group designed to bringing about awareness and fostering change for those living with HIV.

Robin Campillo, pulling from his experiences of working with ACT UP, has created a story that meanders (at a running time of 143 minutes), but always feels alive; with emotion, with energy, with spirit. And so, we too, are immersed in a world that is wracked with fear and denial, of sex and love, of questioning "will I be here tomorrow?" but never stopping for the cause. And because Campillo drew from his own life, there is something so deeply personal about these characters and about these moments -- but what is so astonishing is that we are given a patchwork quilt of characters, a hodgepodge group of people blend together, who we might never see again. Yet as they fight for equality, toss fake blood on naysayers, and kiss in public to generate outrage, Campillo puts into perspective the damning effect of the time: sheer ignorance. It killed many during the time, it is killing many now.

And perhaps what really stuck with me here is that notion that the "personal is political." Campillo has transcended time and crafted a story that feels incredibly (and somewhat sadly) timely. It is messy and it is surely chaotic. But as we learn with the final shot of BPM, there is nothing we can do but keep learning and keep fighting.