Ward 5B caregiver Rita Rockett visits with a patient 

Ward 5B caregiver Rita Rockett visits with a patient 

Ken Kobre/

A remarkable new film opened last Friday at the Dallas Angelika5B profiles real-life heroes who helped ease the pain and suffering of the earliest victims of AIDS. Fearlessly, it examines the role played by nurses and other caregivers who took extraordinary measures to comfort those afflicted by AIDS, which in its early days was perceived wrongly by the general public as being a disease as easy to catch as Ebola. The title of the film is derived from the first AIDS ward in the U.S., known as 5B. 

The movie chronicles the extraordinary efforts of Cliff Morrison, a nurse who galvanized his colleagues into building a special-care unit at a time when hospitals across the country were flat-out refusing to treat AIDS patients. 5B premiered in May at the 2019 Festival de Cannes and had its Los Angeles premiere earlier this month.

Ward 5B patient Shane Harjo and his mother Janet. 

Ward 5B patient Shane Harjo and his mother Janet. 

Mary Asbury/

As co-director Dan Krauss says: "I was a 10-year-old boy living in a suburb of San Francisco when the events in this film took place. Like many, I had no inkling of the courageous battles being fought in the name of compassion and care just a short distance away in the halls of San Francisco General Hospital."

Krauss calls the film "a story of everyday people rising up to become passionate advocates; a story of hospital workers proving to a fear-stricken world that providing care is about more than treating symptoms; a story of nurses whose revolutionary impact still reverberates today — and will continue to reverberate into the future."

But most of all, Krauss says, 5B is "a story about empathy — a value that the subjects of our documentary recognized as so quintessentially human that they risked their lives to champion it. Today, human empathy is more vital than ever."

Details

5B runs through June 27 at the Angelika Dallas, streaming dates have not yet been announced. 

Ward 5B nurses Sasha Cuttler and Mary Magee
Credit: San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward 5B/5A Archives, SFH 12, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Ward 5B nurses Sasha Cuttler and Mary Magee Credit: San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward 5B/5A Archives, SFH 12, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

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