Directed by Arthur J. Bressan, Jr.
81 mins, USA, 1985
Buddies is a 1985 American drama film. It is the first film to deal with the AIDS pandemic, preceding the television film An Early Frost (also released in 1985). Directed by Arthur J. Bressan Jr., who died of complications from AIDS two years after the film was released, the film follows a New York City gay man in a monogamous relationship becoming a “buddy” or a volunteer friend to another gay man dying of AIDS and the friendship that develops. The film stars Geoff Edholm, David Schachter, Billy Lux, and David Rose.Wikipedia
Not just notable for being the very first dramatic film about AIDS, but for how daring it is, tackling issues and subjects that virtually none of the films that came in its wake would have the courage to. It’s no surprise coming from Bressan, whose early sex films were firmly rooted in gay liberation politics and whose later mainstream features were no less complicated, but it still feels bracing over thirty years later. I finally watched An Early Frost last month, and, while I liked it, it was clearly a sanitized product made for the widest possible (re: straight) audience. Bressan’s approach is the literal opposite, focusing so intensely on the relationship between the dying, older gay libber and the assimilationist yuppie who gets assigned to be his buddy to the point that we never get a clear look at anyone else. His story isn’t using dying gay men to educate straight people, but rather to educate the younger generation about the struggle for gay rights and to push them towards taking political action before it’s too late. That he does this while remaining sex-positive and balancing the emotional with the didactic is remarkable. Movies rarely make me emotional — I cried at least three or four times during this. Especially seeing how Bressan incorporates scenes from Passing Strangers and Gay USA into it.Elizabeth Purchell on Letterboxd