“What if Vito Russo ran for President? What if Mapplethorpe got into a Twitter feud with a Kardashian? What would David Wojnarowicz do about the gay executions in the Middle East? “
These are the questions artist and filmmaker Leo Herrera hopes to tackle “with integrity, humor and history” in his new project Fathers which takes place in an alternate universe where HIV and AIDS never existed. In this reality, Leo Herrera imagine an alternative universe where our queer artists and activists had lived. Who would they be today? What would our world be like? Would we have a gay president? These are the questions Fathers will explore in a film that can only be described as “Cruising meets Black Mirror meets Beyonce’s Lemonade.”
To research the political storylines for Fathers, Herrera worked on a New York art collective with Act-Up legend Avram Finkelstein (of Silence=Death campaign), and then as a campaign manager to successfully elect an LGBT activist to public office in San Francisco. Herrera plans to film it in San Francisco, New Orleans and New York, in worlds where our queer heroes, artists and activists lived.
At the centrepiece of Fathers is an art project which imagines where key cultural figures lost to AIDS would be today: In a feat of digital wizardry, Herrera uses age-progression (a forensic technique used by police to find missing children) to take iconic portraits of Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, David Wojnarowicz, Vito Russo and Sylvester, and morphs them into happy seniors in a joyful Dorian Grey reversal of their fate. Combined with imagination, input from those closest to these figures and historical research, Herrera immerses us in exploring possibilities and potential outcomes if the AIDS crisis hadn’t wiped out an entire generation.
“The tools we now have to combat HIV will give us the privilege of keeping our queer artists, but the injustices of AIDS should always live in our collective memory and more importantly in our imagination. It’s the only way that we can find creative cures to the damage it caused to our culture and harness the power it gave our community to join against political forces that threatened our lives, now more than ever.” – Leo Herrera