Del Mar filmmaker debuts new documentary
“Expect A Miracle,” a documentary by a Del Mar filmmaker about a North County home for AIDS patients, premiered on KPBS on June 9.
The house, with its original Oceanside location, is a nonprofit that served as a refuge for AIDS patients to live their final days after they were ostracized by their families and friends. In the early years of the AIDS epidemic, there was a lot of fearmongering and misinformation about how it spread and whether people who had the virus were dangerous.
As the years went on and medical advances allowed AIDS patients to live their full lives symptom-free, the house evolved into a place where patients learn to live with the virus.
It was dubbed “Fraternity House” in its early years after a neighbor asked why there were so many men living in the house, according to the organization’s website. One of the tenants thought they should tell the neighbor it was a fraternity house.
“I think it’s just a beautiful story,” said Del Mar resident Jonathan Hammond, the film’s director and producer, adding that an AIDS diagnosis went from being a death sentence to a manageable life sentence due to medicine.
The documentary, which includes interviews with AIDS activists and historians, tells the story of the people who helped make the house’s mission possible over the years.
“I just found it so beautiful that people could offer that to others,” said Hammond, whose previous experience includes two mini-documentaries and a full-length documentary that aired on KPBS last fall.
“Expect A Miracle” also alludes to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is another virus that has caused a lot of death and confusion over who is at risk, how it spreads and how to treat it with medicine.
“The takeaway that I want people to have is that in the middle of darkness, there is going to be a light, and you can be the light,” Hammond said.
AIDS is no longer the crisis it once was, in part because of the work of the people at the Fraternity House. There are still campaigns aimed at eliminating AIDS among the segments of the population that are most at risk, including gay men, transgender women and injection drug users.
AIDS deaths worldwide have decreased by more than 50% since peaking in 2004, according to the global advocacy organization UNAIDS. Since 2010, the mortality rate has reduced by about one-third.
“If something is unjust, you have the power to change it,” Hammond said.
For more information about the film, visit video.kpbs.org.
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