We Were Here

We Were Here

About the Film

We Were Here documents the arrival in San Francisco of what was then called the "Gay Plague" in the early 1980s. It illuminates the profound personal and community issues raised by the AIDS epidemic, as well as the broad political and social upheavals it unleashed. MORE

Early in the epidemic, San Francisco's compassionate, multifaceted, and creative response to AIDS became known as "The San Francisco Model." The city's activist and progressive infrastructure that evolved out of the 1960s, combined with San Francisco's highly politicized gay community centered around the Castro Street neighborhood, helped overcome obstacles in a nation both homophobic and lacking in universal healthcare. In its suffering, San Francisco mirrors the experience of so many American cities during those years. In its response, The San Francisco Model remains a standard for attaining a healthier, more just, and more humane society.

In 2011, the United States marked 30 years since AIDS descended as a mysterious "gay cancer" that mystified the medical community. Like an unrelenting hurricane, the epidemic roiled San Francisco for two decades, and only began to ease its grip with medical advancements in the late 1990s. The death years of AIDS left the city ravaged and exhausted, yet, as in most of the developed world, the worst seems past. Though thousands are still living with HIV, and new infections continue at an alarming rate, the relentless suffering of the '80s and '90s has given way to a kind of calm and a degree of willful amnesia. What lessons do the early years still offer us?

We Were Here focuses on five individuals, all of whom lived in San Francisco prior to the epidemic. Their lives changed in unimaginable ways when their beloved city changed from a hotbed of sexual freedom and social experimentation into the epicenter of a terrible and largely mysterious plague. From their different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves, the interviewees share stories that are not only intensely personal, but that also illuminate the much larger themes of that era: the political and sexual complexities, the terrible emotional toll, and the role of women — particularly lesbians — in caring for and fighting for their gay brothers.


The Filmmaker

David Weissman moved to San Francisco in 1976, when the city began to be referred to as the "Gay Mecca." He was at Harvey Milk's camera store on the night of his election, and at the victory party for the No on 6 Campaign — the first major electoral victory for the emerging gay movement. Devastated by Milk's assassination just months later, David became more active in SF politics — working on local political campaigns. In 1981, David began taking filmmaking courses at City College of San Francisco. His short film Song From an Angel featured San Francisco performer Rodney Price doing a song and tap-dance about his own death, two weeks before he died of AIDS. In 1998, David teamed up with his friend Bill Weber to co-direct the feature length documentary, The Cockettes. LESS

Film Credits

Produced and Directed by
David Weissman

Bill Weber

Director of Photography
Marsha Kahm

Location Sound
Lauretta Molitor

Holcombe Waller

In Order of Appearance
Ed Wolf
Paul Boneberg
Daniel Goldstein
Guy Clark
Eileen Glutzer

Additional Music
Doug Hilsinger

Post Production Supervisor
Bill Weber

Audio Post-Production
James LeBrecht

Color Correction
Gary Coates

Project Consultants
Irene Taylor Brodsky
Gail Silva

Post Production Services
Spy Post

Humanities Advisors
Jonathan Katz
Paul Boneberg

Producer’s Representative
Jonathan Dana, with Orly Ravid

Distribution Consultants
The Film Collaborative

Archival Footage

Fighting for Our Lives: Facing AIDS in San Francisco
Directed by Ellen Seidler

Living With AIDS
Directed by Tina DiFeliciantonio

Silverlake Life
Directed by Peter Friedman and Tom Joslin

Chuck Solomon: Coming of Age
Directed by Marc Huestis and Wendy Dallas

Additional Archival Footage
Chuck Roseberg
Ellen Seidler
KQED San Francisco
KPIX San Francisco
Network for Continuing Medical Education
San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive

Archival Photos
Crawford Barton
Robert Pruzan
Marie Ueda
Henri Leleu
Greg Day
Marc Geller
Rick Gerharter
Sibylla Herbrich
Jim James
Hans Kwiotek
Dan Nicoletta
Mariella Poli
Alon Reininger
Yeli Sanchez
Frank Yamrus
GLBT Historical Society
San Francisco General Hospital AIDS Ward Archives
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Nude self-portraits by John Davis courtesy of Terri Davis and J. John Priola

Archival Research
Gerard Koskovich
Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Archival Support
Alex Cherian
Rebekah Kim

Funding Provided by
California Council for the Humanities/The Skirball Foundation
Silva Watson Moonwalk Fund
Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation
San Francisco Foundation Bay Area Documentary Fund
Alvin Baum
Cynthia Lovelace Sears and Frank Buxton
Joseph Garrett and Spike Lomibao
The Small Change Foundation
Frameline Completion Fund
Nathan Cummings Foundation
Felicia Oldfather
San Francisco Film Society/ Film Arts Foundation
Susan Shaw
Darren Star
Fenwick and West
Howard Roffman and Duane Waters
Rudd Canaday and Gerald Walker
Robert Dockendorff
Murray Edelman
Ann Jeffries
Stephen Martin and Douglas Schmidt
Karl Christiansen
Jay Cohen
Olivia Sears and Craig Bicknell
Julie Benello
Dennis Chicola and Ron Newman
Michael Ehrenzweig
Furthur Foundation
Elizabeth Katz and LeeAnn Thompson
Tom Kelley
Thomas Lauderdale and Philip Iosca
Thomas Mills

This program was produced by Weissman Projects LLC,
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2011, Weissman Projects LLC. All rights reserved.

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  • Independent Spirit Awards
    Best Documentary (Nomination)
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Share your memories of the early years of the AIDS epidemic.