Judging from the above video of audience reaction to the world premiere of Nashville filmmaker Brent W. Leung's House of Numbers at the Nashville Film Festival, you'd think the film received a unanimously positive reception. But if you read Jim Ridley's piece "Controversy lingers after premiere of Nashville director's AIDS documentary" in this week's Scene, in which he examines the uproar surrounding the screening and the contentious Q&A that followed, you'll know the truth is anything but.
Considering that the user who posted the video goes by the name "houseofnumbers," it seems likely the video was made by people associated with the film, so it's understandable that it would have been advantageously edited. Still, according to Harvard Medical School Professor Daniel Kuritzkes, a veteran AIDS researcher who appears in the film (and who claims his remarks were shown out of context), when it comes to making films, Leung has a gift for stacking the deck.
The controversy boils down to this: Leung portrays his film as an unbiased look at HIV and AIDS, while his detractors, including many highly respected AIDS researchers, claim the film is full of misinformation and clearly reflects the filmmaker's AIDS-denialist agenda, a contention further fueled by Leung's refusal to identify the film's financial backers.
For an account of the melee at the Boston screening mentioned in Ridley's story, check out this in-depth account from Bay Windows, "New England's largest GLBT newsaper." Associate editor Ethan Jacobs describes a scene in which Kuritzkes, participating in a post-film rebuttal panel, is repeatedly shouted down by Leung and audience members while trying to present his case.
In Jacobs' account, two Boston audience members who appeared in the film, Austrian gynecologist Christian Fiala and Liam Scheff (identified in the film as a freelance journalist), walked down and sat at the panel table uninvited, claiming they were forcibly joining the panel to provide balance. Several days after the story, Bay Windows allowed Scheff to present his version of events. (I'm always a little wary of anyone who follows their signature with "investigative journalist.")
Put as simply as possible, the choice is this: Either all of our currently accepted knowledge of HIV/AIDS is fabricated, part of a cynical conspiracy by Big Pharma to make money and sell drugs, or AIDS denialists (they prefer "dissenters" or "rethinkers") are dangerously misleading people and in the process discouraging AIDS sufferers from seeking the very treatment that may save their lives. Take your pick.
This much we do know: Judging from the reader reaction to Ridley's piece, you'd think he had mentioned Scientology.