We Were Here

500 Days Of Film Reviews We Were Here And Finds A Poignant Account Of The Aids Crisis In 1980’s San Francisco

In the early 1980s, gay men started to die of a mysterious disease.

No one knew what it was or where it came from. Initially called the “gay cancer” there was no cure and it was spreading fast.

We Were Here focuses on the origins of the Aids epidemic in San Francisco and what the community went through during the early days of the disease. 

Is It Any Good?

We Were Here is a beautiful and emotional documentary that tells an important story - a story that should not be forgotten. 

There are no bells and whistles here - no dramatic reconstructions, no twists and turns. Just a group of five people explaining what it was like to live through the early years of the Aids crisis. 

In an interview with PBS News, director, David Weissman, explains why he decided to make his film:

“It became clear to me that the people who had lived through the epidemic in those years had stopped talking about it and that people who didn’t live through that time really knew very little about the origins of the AIDS epidemic and what our community went through in the early years.

“So it seemed like with the passage of time since the medications started working and the death rate started to go down, it was a good time to look back at that era and try to make sense of what actually happened, what we actually went through as a community.”

So, I was in tears within the first few minutes. The passage of time has not made the experiences of these five people any less devastating for them to recount or for us to hear. 

The depth of the human tragedy here is hard to believe - even though it happened in such recent history. Within a 15 year period, 20,000 people died of Aids in San Francisco alone.

However, despite being an emotional watch, We Were Here is also life affirming and uplifting. 

People rallied around those who were suffering - even though they didn’t know how the disease spread. Many volunteered to work in the hospitals and out in the community - taking care of men who had no one else.

We Were Here’s only female contributor tells how, as a nurse, she took care of Aids patients and also conducted heartbreaking research in the desperate search for a cure.

Meanwhile, people came together and marched in order to protect gay civil rights. Many protesters knew that they would soon lose their battle with the disease - but they marched anyway.

In this way, We Were Here is both a deeply tragic and wonderfully uplifting story.

At the beginning of the film, artist and Aids survivor, Daniel Goldstein says: “none of my friends are around, from the beginning. So, I want to tell their story as much as I want to tell my story”. 

By the end of We Were Here, I felt that they had all accomplished this aim and told their story beautifully. 

Random Observations

Have you watched We Were Here? If you have, I would really love to know what you thought. Do feel free to leave me a comment in the box below.


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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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