Q&A: Film Festival Guest, Gay Rights Activist Larry Kramer Reflects on 2015

Larry Kramer in Love and Anger” will be screened at UVA on Sunday as part of the Virginia Film Festival.
November 05, 2015

This weekend, famed gay rights activist Larry Kramer will travel to the University of Virginia to share his story with students and the public during the Virginia Film Festival.

At 80, Kramer has spent much of his life fighting for the rights of the gay community, and he has plenty of fight left. This has been a significant year for Kramer, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the favor of same-sex marriage in May, the publication of his first novel in April and the January debut of a documentary about his life and activism.

On Sunday, the film festival will screen the documentary, “Larry Kramer in Love and Anger,” directed by Jean Carlomusto. Later that evening, Kramer will give a talk about his career and life.

Kramer is a founder of AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, formed to help those living with AIDS through legislation, medical research and policies. He is also a well-known playwright and author, perhaps most famous for his 1985 play, “The Normal Heart,” a largely autobiographically work focusing on the AIDS crisis in 1980s New York. It has recently been staged on Broadway and adapted in an HBO movie starring Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts. This year, Kramer published his novel, “The American People,” which takes a sweeping look at American history while following the spread of the AIDS virus and the lives of same-sex couples.

UVA Today caught up with Kramer over email shortly before his trip to UVA to talk about the Supreme Court ruling, his current work and the message he hopes to bring to Charlottesville.

Q. The Virginia Film Festival is screening a new documentary about your life and decades of activism for LGBTQ rights. What do you hope audiences – especially students – will learn from the screening?

A. I want all gays everywhere to learn how to fight back to get what we deserve that everyone else has. Marriage is only a part of it.

Q. This has been a remarkable year for gay rights, given the historic Supreme Court decision last spring. What does this mean to you to see that progress, given the years of work you have put into this and other causes?

A. We must not congratulate ourselves. The fight for equality is never over.

Q. Your play, “The Normal Heart,” has been revived on Broadway and in an award-winning HBO film. What does it mean to you to share such an iconic story with a new generation?

A. I am thrilled that young people particularly have responded so favorably. I don’t think my story is iconic, nor do I think I am a hero as I am now being called. I don’t do anything that any person is incapable of doing. We all have voices. We must learn how to use them loud and clear.

People don’t believe me when I say that I am essentially shy. But fighting for my life and the lives of all my brothers and sisters helps me not to be so shy. It makes me angry, how we are treated and have always been treated since the beginning of America.

“The American People,” the first volume of my history of the AIDS plague, has just been published. I wish every gay person would read it and learn about our history. Then maybe they could be angry, too.

Q. How has your activism inspired your art and vice-versa?

A. I don’t separate the two. It is all one and the same.

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I am working on volume two of “The American People” and finishing a new play. There will also be a revival of “The Destiny of Me,” a companion play to “The Normal Heart.”

I look forward to being at U.Va.

“Larry Kramer in Love and Anger” will be screened Sunday at 1 p.m in Newcomb Hall Theater, with Kramer on hand for discussion after the film. On Sunday at 5:30 p.m., the festival will present “An Evening with Larry Kramer” at Old Cabell Hall, where Kramer will give a wide-ranging talk about his life and work. Tickets for both events can be purchased online at virginiafilmfestival.org or through UVA’s Arts Box Office.

Media Contact

Caroline Newman

University News Associate Office of University Communications