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Fig Trees

100 min.
Year of Production:
Van Abrahams
David Wall
Deborah Overes
Ezra Perlman
Denise Williams
Ian Funk
Jesse Nishita
Mark Hartmeier
Stephen Chen
Justin Bacchus
Ashton Williams
Stephen McClare
Jennifer Moore
Richard Fung
Production Company:
Greyzone Ltd
Berlinale Section:
Berlinale Category:
Documentary Film
Teddy Award:
Best Documentary/ Essay Film

An operatic documentary about the struggle of two Aids activists – Canadian Tim McCaskell and South African Zackie Achmat. Both have fought tooth and nail for the provision of anti-retroviral drugs to treat Aids. In John Greyson’s film they are ably supported by Gertrude Stein, a singing albino squirrel, and St. Teresa of Ávila. FIG TREES is nonetheless based on true stories. Tim McCaskell has spent more than twenty years fighting Aids and addressing the concerns of gay men. In Johannesburg in 1999 Zackie Achmat, who is himself virus-positive, began refusing to take his medication: he said he would only continue his treatment if it were made freely available to all South Africans suffering from Aids. His symbolic act caused a stir in the international arena. His private Treatment Action Campaign soon became a nationwide movement – meanwhile his own state of health continued to deteriorate …
John Greyson has re-edited documentary interviews, speeches made by both men, archive footage of press conferences and demonstrations, and, with the addition of music, has turned his film into an operatic scenario. The work combines the authentic struggle of two Aids activists against the authorities and the pharmaceutical industry with a surrealistic narrative, at the centre of which is Gertrude Stein who wants to write a tragic opera about Achmat and McCaskell and their saint-like heroics. To this end she abducts the two men to Niagara Falls where she forces them to belt out complicated avant-garde arias. These arias are also authentic – having originated from Gertrude Stein’s ambitious opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts”.

BIOGRAFIE John Greyson

The Canadian film and video artist was born in Nelson, British Columbia in 1960. He studied film at the Canadian Film Center and has made over 60 award-winning feature films, installations, transmedia works and shorts. In 1989, he won a Teddy Award for Urinal; in 1991, he received another for The Making of Monsters. His work combines documentary and fictional elements and explores issues including queer activism, homophobic violence, AIDS activism, anti-apartheid and anti-war struggles, conflicts in the Middle East, police entrapment and prison abolition. He has taught film production at York University in Toronto since 2014.

FILMOGRAFIE John Greyson (selection)

2021 International Dawn Chorus Day  2020 Auterson Clock  2020 Prurient  2018 Towel   2018 Gazonto  2017 Memurial  2011/2012 Teddy Kurzfilmrolle 2012  2011 Green Laser  2010 Covered  2010 Rex Vs. Singh  2008 Fig Trees  2007 Orange Clouds   1997 Uncut  1993 Zero Patience  1990 The Making of Monsters  1988 Urinal 

John Greyson@IMDb

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