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March 2007


By Wilson Morales


Directed by Nelson George
Producer: Mark A. Baker
Executive Producers: Jamie Foxx, Marcus King, Queen Latifah, Shakim Compere, Shelby Stone, and Jamie Rucker King
Screenwriters: Nelson George, Jim McKay, Hannah Weyer
Cast: Queen Latifah, Wendell Piece, Anna Deavere Smith, Rachel Nicks, Evan Ross, Gloria Reuben, Tony Rock, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Rayelle Parker




Since the AIDS epidemic broke out in 90s, we have seen films on the big and small screen dealing with the effect it has with those who have it and those who fear it, and HBO Films has been one of the few cable channels that constantly puts out a film dealing with the issue, starting with the critically acclaimed “And The Band Played On” to the Emmy-winning “Angels in America”. The HIV virus affects many, yet we don’t often see films from different perspectives such as the African American community, until now. Based on the life of his HIV-positive sister, Andrea Williams and making his directorial debut, Nelson George has a written a film that brings to light the effects that HIV brings to the community and showcases some fine performances from the cast, including Queen Latifah, Pierce, and Anna Deavere Smith. In “Life Support”, we get an emotional, raw, educational film that many should see to set examples for others.

In her best role to date since being Oscar nominated for “Chicago”, Queen Latifah excels as the mother of two daughters who struggles to find peace with her family while battling the crippling disease and teaching other the effects of it so that others are more responsible. Set in Brooklyn, and starting off with women in an HIV awareness support group, Ana (Latifah) is seen talking and listening to other women explain their situation on how they contracted the disease and what they do daily to keep living. Ana’s world has two sides, the home and happy life she shares with her youngest daughter, Kim and her HIV positive husband Slick (Pierce), whom she contracted the disease from when they were young drug addicts; and the other family she battles and yearns for forgiveness, which includes her feisty and disciplined mother (Smith) and her estranged older daughter Kelly (Nicks). Ana gave up custody of Kelly to her mother when Kelly was young, so mother and daughter are not as bonded on both fronts.

When Kelly’s childhood gay friend Amare (Evan Ross), who also has the virus and careless, is in need of medical attention, Kelly tries to reach out to Ana, who gladly offers her assistance. Combing the streets and entering dangerous areas, Ana is determined to come through for her daughter, while her happy home with Slick begins to show signs of a breakdown. Still, Ana makes time to give support to the many women who come to the awareness center who reach out and want help in dealing with their virus.

In crafting a story centering around the African American community while based on the life of his sister, George effectively brings the epidemic to the forefront that we haven’t seen before. Having women describe their plights and what they go through in life to survive day by day adds realism to the film. In her finest and most genuine performance to date, Queen Latifah excels as a flawed mother who tries to do right. Always seen in character roles, Pierce is riveting as Slick. While Latifah is the central figure in the film, Anna Deavere Smith is outstanding as the mother who’s commanding, disciplined, and devoted to keep her life as happy and from harm’s way. In speaking with her granddaughter, played by newcomer Nicks, her tone speaks volumes. The entire cast including the Ross siblings to the women from the support group are all outstanding. The message that “Life Support” is simple. The HIV virus is a painful experience, but through medical help and the support of friends, one can get through life, despite the emotional ups and downs.