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The documentary 5B premiered Friday night as one of the opening night events kicking off the 2019 LA Pride Festival and Parade. Stars, including Halle Berry, Elizabeth Chambers Hammer, Javier Muñoz, Jaime King and Jasmin Masters, walked the red carpet alongside the film’s cast to celebrate its premiere.
“I saw the work of all these beautiful angels, the nurses that took care of these patients when nobody else would, and thought, ‘Wow, this is our history of the AIDS epidemic,’” Halle Berry told The Hollywood Reporter while accompanying nurse Alison Moed from the cast on the carpet. “It needs to be out there. This new generation needs to understand where we’ve come and realize how far we have to go.”
Exploring a stigmatized era of American history, 5B tells the story of the first HIV/AIDS ward that was started in 1983 in San Francisco by interviewing the nurses, caretakers and patients that lived in the ward.
“San Francisco General was the first hospital in the country to accept people with AIDS,” George Kelly, an activist whose testimony is included in 5B, told THR. “With all the fear and stigma that was going around about the epidemic, the [hospital] created ward 5A and 5B. Ward 5B was a terminal ward. It was [also] a ward of love and compassion, where the staff volunteered to be in that ward. Not only were there volunteers willing to raise their hands and work on the floor, [but they also] touched the patients with their hands.”
5B‘s director Dan Krauss described that touch as a “radical touch,” especially at a time when HIV/AIDS was seen as a death sentence. This story of the nurses that demonstrated both the compassion and the courage necessary to treat the patients really appealed to Michael Sneed, executive vp global corporate affairs and chief communication officer at Johnson & Johnson.
Sneed said he and his team wanted to tell a story about nurses impacting patients on a personal level, so the team, led by J3 global president Eileen Kiernan, traveled to Hollywood to listen to directors pitch story ideas. That is when Kiernan and the team heard film director Krauss’ 5B story pitch.
“[I had] learned that most of the founding members of the ward were still alive and living in the Bay Area, and that there had been quite a bit of footage shot on the ward. [I saw the] possibility for a film that really allowed viewers to experience what it was like to be inside 5B during the early days of the AIDS crisis,” Krauss told THR.
The film showcases the nurses and the survivors. Steve Williams was diagnosed with AIDS and spinal tuberculosis before being hospitalized in ward 5B. After being treated as a patient, Williams recovered and went on to study journalism before traveling to Tanzania and South Africa as an HIV peer educator.
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