A documentary based on a year-long WaPo Style series by Jose Antonio Vargas premiers at the Tribeca Film Festival next month. The film is called, “The Other City.”
Vargas joined HuffPost last summer as the Technology & Innovations Editor. He wrote and co-produced the documentary. Sheila Johnson (BET co-founder) produced the film; Susan Koch, a D.C. native and veteran filmmaker, directed it.
Vargas, who covered the ’08 presidential campaign for WaPo’s Style, also wrote about HIV/AIDS in D.C. The series led to the film set to release next month.
The doc tells the stories of ordinary people with AIDS: J’Mia, 28-year-old mother of three who struggles to look for housing; Ron, a former heroine addict who runs a needle exchange program in Anacostia; Jose, who was infected when he was 17 and works as an outreach worker with young immigrant Latinos in D.C. The film captures Joseph’s House, a home for terminally ill, HIV-infected men and women in their last weeks of life.
“Writing about HIV/AIDS, for me, is exploring subjects and themes that we’re all too quick to isolate and simplify,” Vargas told FishbowlDC. “Sex and drugs, race and class, identity. To me, ‘The Other City’ is America’s underclass told through a virus.”
He said the film wasn’t easy emotionally to make. “AIDS is a very complex issue,” he said. It’s about sex, about drugs, about race and class and identity. And it was heartbreaking to write about HIV/AIDS, when I first started reporting on it when I was a summer intern for WaPo back in 2003. And it was heartbreaking going through the film process, too. But the upside is we’re telling stories that often get neglected on film, nearly 30 years after we first heard of HIV.”
Vargas said the film incorporates all of his journalism skills.
“Premiering at the Tribeca Film Fest is really an honor, especially with a documentary that, I hope, captures what I’m about as a journalist — and, more importantly, shows a DC that’s far from the Capitol Hill-Dupont Circle-Georgetown mindset. The goal, for me, is to be a multimedia journalist: writing stories, curating online content, figuring out how video/film works. After about 10 years working in daily newspapers (first at SF Chronicle and then at WaPo), I wanted to tell stories in different ways – not just in text, but on film. This is a first step for me.”
Learn specifics about the screenings and watch a trailer after the jump…