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Review: Fig Trees

Strikes a delicate balance among solemnity, wry humor, and rage
By SHAULA CLARK  |  May 6, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars


Here's a first: an AIDS documentary nested inside an opera that's obsessed with albino squirrels, figs, palindromes, and Pythagoras. In this portrait of AIDS patients/activists Tim McCaskell (the Canadian founder of AIDS Action Now!) and Zackie Achmat (who refused his own anti-retroviral meds to advocate more widely available HIV treatment in South Africa), Fig Trees riffs on Gertrude Stein & Virgil Thomson's 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts.

It's a lot to take in, but whenever the Stein-like concentric imagery become almost impenetrable, director John Greyson lobs a factual pebble — a talking-head quote or archival footage — into his lovely visual pool to help us make sense of the ripples.

Another unlikely source of inspiration seems to be Weird Al, as the film is studded with music-video parodies of U2 and Michael Jackson. Often sublime, Fig Trees manages to strike a delicate balance among solemnity, wry humor, and rage.

Related: Losing common ground, Art dodgers, Living with HPV, More more >
  Topics: Reviews , Culture and Lifestyle, Food and Cooking, lgbt film festival 2009,  More more >
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