3 Needles

2006, Movie, NR, 127 mins


Nova Scotia-based filmmaker Thom Fitzgerald's important triptych film shows three different faces of the AIDS crisis, and demonstrates that the transmission of HIV has become an uncontrollable global pandemic that feeds on poverty and recognizes no sexual, national or religious borders. In the first segment, "The Buddhists," an illegal black-market blood operation destroys a small, impoverished village in southern China. Pregnant Miss Jin (Lucy Liu), a young woman pretending to be a representative of the Provincial Health Office, arrives with the promise of five dollars to every healthy person over the age of 12 who gives blood. She entrusts the operation to an inexperienced local who neglects to clean the machine more than once a week. Business is soon booming; Tong Sam (Tanabadee Chokpikultong), whose wife and young daughter have been selling blood as often as they can, is finally able to plant a decent crop and purchase an ox. But on returning to the village, Jin notices that nearly everyone who's been giving blood has begun to waste away, something she's seen before and has clearly brought upon this doomed village. The provocative segment "Christians" focuses on the ways in which the Western porn industry continues to disseminate the disease, despite self-regulation designed to protect adult-movie performers. Every month, a Quebec production company requires a mandatory monthly HIV test; if actors test positive, they're blacklisted. Denys (Shawn Ashmore) is a young, HIV-positive actor who's found a way around the test: The blood samples he gives are actually drawn from his ailing father. The jig is up when the lab informs him that the blood sample he provided that morning belongs to a dead man; unbeknownst to Denys, his father passed away during the night. In her grief over her husband's death and the revelation that her son is both HIV-positive and a porn star, Denys' devout Catholic mother (Stockard Channing) devises a desperate plan to help him. In "The Pagans," three Catholic nuns (Chloe Sevigny, Sandra Oh and Olympia Dukakis, who also serves as the film's narrator) arrive at a mission on the coast of South Africa, hoping to save as many souls as they can among HIV-infected members of the Pondo tribe, many of whom work on an Afrikaans plantation. Novice Sister Clara (Sevigny), however, soon sees a far greater need than soul-saving: The virus has infected one quarter of the workforce, too many for plantation overseer Mr. Hallyday (Ian Roberts) to feel he can do much in the way of medical care. When an orphaned toddler is raped by an infected worker (Siv Mbelu) who's under the ghastly but widespread delusion that sex with a virgin will cure him, Clara decides she must take direct action to save the living, and strikes a difficult bargain with Hallyday. After reminding us that the AIDS crisis in the West is far from over in THE EVENT, Fitzgerald widened his scope with this much-needed perspective on the global dimensions the disease has achieved. Despite the importance and seriousness of the subject, there's plenty of Fitzgerald's brand of sly humor on hand, particularly in the scenes involving the Quebecoise porn industry. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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