“The First Fallen” is an emotional and honest tale about the hurt caused by the initial AIDS outbreak

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A man with a brown jacket sitting in the woods
The First Fallen photo by FiGa Filmes

A breathtaking film on harsh realities at the start of the AIDS epidemic in Brazil

The AIDS epidemic could be argued by many as one of the darkest times in the gay world because of the abuse and discrimination that spewed from many individuals toward the LGBTQ community. The virus itself also puts individuals through so much suffering. Thankfully, now, in 2023, the discrimination is not as prevalent in many areas of the world. However, hate still exists against the gay community and that hatred is spread more by certain groups.

So much progress has been made. And the LGBTQ community must never go backward.

The First Fallen will be released on February 3, 2023. It takes us back to Brazil in 1983, not too long after the outbreak started forty years before. The movie forces the viewer to confront the painful reality of how LGBTQ folks were so poorly treated and given additional trauma because of opinions and misconceptions about the illness in the early ’80s.

When asked about the apathy of the system in recognizing and helping the LGBTQ community who perished in the tragedy, movie director Rodrigo de Oliveira told BCR News, “People were dying since 1983 because of a virus which had no name, but they started counting the death only from 1985… I remember vividly, when I went to the club in my young age, there weren’t any people above 30 years old as they all had died.”

His team made a conscious effort in Brazil to cast people from the LGBTQ community. “We were conscious on our part to not only make a film about LGBTQIA, but with people from our community who are living with AIDS'” said Oliveira. “There were a lot of gay actors and trans-actresses interested in portraying the characters.”

The First Fallen had its world premiere in Germany at the Mannheim-Heidelberg International Film Festival back in 2021, Oliveira said that the reception of the film was pleasantly surprising. “The Germans are cold and our film is warm. Some people were even crying. Maybe the film has succeeded in establishing a connection that goes beyond boundaries.”

The story centers around three friends, Suzano, Rose, and Humberto, all members of the community who end up developing AIDS and then move out to a house in a rural area. The group ends up forging a strong bond and sticking together while they are helping to care for Suzano. The illness is taking a real toll on his health.

The First Fallen is a deeply emotional story. The pain our characters faced at times through the hands of the Brazilian healthcare system was really heartbreaking to see on screen. The actors all give deeply moving performances filled with realism and authenticity.

Although the film was a bit depressing, this is a movie that is one of those which is meant to give important lessons. It is quite possible director Rodrigo de Oliveira was trying to make a film, not for the sole purpose of entertainment but more to give an honest account of the hurt that so many people dealt with.

Some of these individuals may remind you of people we know who survived the outbreak in our country. With so much advancement in the last 40-years in the area of LGBTQ rights, this film is a good way to bring us back and never forget the hurt the previous generations faced from the lack of empathy toward their plight in the early days of AIDS.

Despite being a film that focuses a lot on illness and trauma there is a redeeming and hopeful element too. Suzano’s sister Maura is a beautiful person and a fantastic ally. Whenever she came on screen, it was always a joy to watch. It added some extra heart and depth. Actress Clara Choveaux did an outstanding job with her character portrayal. Towards the end, there is a scene that focuses on trying to see the pain in a more positive light.

The First Fallen is a breathtaking film, as it is a lesson about the harsh reality of the start of the AIDS virus and how discrimination leads to making this world an even more broken place. It really is a thoroughly moving drama that will more than likely leave tears running down your cheeks. 4.5/ 5 stars

Movie trailer available here.