The First Fallen was a gem of the 2022 Inside Out Festival. It’s long past time that viewers get period pieces chronicling the AIDS crisis. So many outside of the LGBTQ+ community remain in blissful ignorance about the devastating toll that this pandemic caused around the world. The First Fallen is a fictional, inside look at the strength of the community that had no choice but to rely on each other. While there’s inspiration to be found throughout, it’s heartbreaking why this closeness is so necessary.
The story is simple enough. A group of friends are caught up in the early days of the AIDS crisis in Brazil. For them, the AIDS crisis is more than a distant scary news story. They are on the ground floor of a pandemic that would change the world. Their world continues even as the epidemic rages on. They each bring their unique skills and experience to helping one another, when no one else was willing to.
The First Fallen is anchored by incredibly relatable and sympathetic characters. Each of the main characters featured are rich and fleshed out in the most compelling ways. Suzano (Johnny Massaro) is the lens through which the character sees these characters’ world. Humburto (Victor Camilo) is a classic filmmaker, documenting life’s most mundane moment’s into something powerful. Rose (Renata Carvalho) is the heart and soul of the entire story. Her love and optimism in the face of unspeakable tragedy was both poignant and heartbreaking.
There are parallels to be drawn to the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is still very much a thing, despite what governments of the world may be saying. The AIDS pandemic was targeted genocide against the LGBTQ+ community, and the movie captures this. It’s important that these stories are continually told, so we can never forget the horrors that have reverberated through the generations. It’s clear as the story unfolds that chosen family can be lifesaving.
The choice to highlight the friends, families, and lovers of those living with AIDS was an important one. It made the absence of everyone else that much more stark. The precious few that remained by the sides of family members and friends who were living with HIV/AIDS were far too rare. It’s a searing indictment to anyone who remains a bystander when a crisis mainly impacting a marginalized community is staring us in the face.
At its core, The First Fallen is a tribute to the power of community. It’s both heartbreaking and empowering to see a story so clearly spell out that when no one will stand with you, you have only those who really love you to rely on. This is both a terrifying and comforting thought that the movie highlights masterfully. While this story is distinctly a period piece, it’s a timeless story with a message for our time. The characters are ones to love. It’s a trip through time, to a place that’s not so far removed from the present moment.
The First Fallen had its Canadian premiere at the 2022 Inside Out Festival.