Controversial Film on Deliberate HIV Sero-Conversion One of 11 Documentaries Accepted to Prestigious Berlin Film Festival

LOS ANGELES -- California filmmaker Louise Hogarth's documentary film, "The Gift," an unvarnished exploration of a subculture of gay men deliberately seeking to become HIV infected, has been accepted for exhibition in the Panorama Dokumente series at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival February 6-16, 2003 in Germany. The documentary, shot mainly in California, is one of only 11 -- and one of only two American* -- documentaries accepted into competition for the 53rd Berlinale.

"I am both honored and humbled that 'The Gift' has been accepted to the Berlin Film Festival," said Hogarth. "Berlin is clearly the largest festival in Europe and one of the most prominent in the world, so I am certain there were many other worthy documentary films for the judges to choose from."

"The Gift" offers a unique lens into a small subculture of HIV negative men in the gay male community who actively seek, or are completely indifferent about, becoming HIV positive. Doug Hitzel, a 21-year-old gay man interviewed for the film by Hogarth in San Francisco, is now infected with HIV. After only nine months on medications, he had to switch to a new anti-retroviral therapy regimen. Hitzel, who is also currently profiled in a more inflammatory piece in Rolling Stone magazine, now regrets his decision to become infected. Hogarth's one-hour film, edited down from more than 80 hours of footage and more two-and-a half-years in the making, presents a more balanced, thoughtful portrait of the issue.

"This film is destined for controversy: certain gay men deliberately seeking to become HIV positive while the developing world is being devastated by AIDS," added Hogarth. "I'm grateful that Berlin and many of the other film festivals have the courage to exhibit this documentary."

"The Gift" has also been accepted for exhibition at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, the Mardi Gras Film Festival in Sydney, Australia; Queer Screen in Melbourne, Australia; and Out in Africa, where it will be shown in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, South Africa. It has also been submitted and is under consideration at several other film festivals.

* The other American documentary is Fight Back, Fight AIDS -- 15 Years of ACT UP by James Wentzy.

Source: Dream Out Loud Productions

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