Laurie Lynd has been to Barrie a number of times in the past to film episodes of The Good Witch and Murdoch Mysteries but this month will be his first appearance at the Barrie Film Festival. The award-winning writer/director will here Sunday, Oct. 20 for a Q&A after the screening of Killing Patient Zero.
Lynd, who currently lives in Stratford, has several feature films to his credit, numerous shorts and television shows ranging from Schitt’s Creek to Degrassi: The Next Generation. Killing Patient Zero is his first documentary.
The film is based on Richard McKay’s groundbreaking book, Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic. It zeros in a French-Canadian flight attendant Gaetan Dugas’s story. Dugas was vilified as Patient Zero and blamed for giving society AIDS but Lynd clears him of that infamy and reveals who he really was in this documentary feature.
It is a subject he is personally familiar with as he lived in New York city during the height of the AIDS crisis. He was in a graduate film program at New York University and lived there from 1982-86.
He credits Randy Shilts’ book And the Band Played on for giving him a reality check.
“That book that gave rise to the whole patient zero and it kind of woke me up. I hadn’t realized I had blinders on while I was in New York and it prompted me to write one of my first short films RSVP which is dealing with AIDS,” he said.
Writing and directing Killing Patient Zero was an opportunity to revisit the story even though he found it personally difficult. He describes it as a harrowing time that reminded him of how entrenched homophobia was back then and how it affected the fight against AIDS.
“It took a toll making the film but I’m very glad to get the message out about what happened because I think people have forgotten that AIDS was an epidemic that in many ways was allowed to happen because the people it was affecting back then didn’t matter. It was ok if gay men were dying,” he said.
The film premiered at the 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival where it was nominated for the Audience Award, Best Documentary. Last month, it won Best Documentary at the Sydney Queer Film Festival in Australia.
Killing Patient Zero took a year of prep and research before shooting 40 interviews in 12 cities in three weeks. He interviewed friends and colleagues of both Dugas and Shilts, doctors at the forefront of AIDS, an international team of researchers as well as gay men and women who lived through that time, such as Fran Lebowitz, the most well-known. Editing, where the story came together took close to four months.
There are two screenings of Killing Patient Zero at the Uptown Theatre in downtown Barrie. Sunday, Oct. 20 at 4 p.m. includes a Q&A with Lynd after the film. There is another screening on Tuesday, Oct. 22 at 4:30 p.m. The Barrie Film Festival runs from Oct. 18-27. For more details and tickets see www.barriefilmfestival.ca