All of Us

How effective are social-activist docs that don't entertain enough to captivate the non-converted? Brooklyn filmmaker Emily Abt's well-meaning, pro-feminist doc offers little new insight in seeking to raise awareness that black women are disproportionately at high risk for HIV infection (the leading cause of death among those 25 to 34). Shot in the South Bronx on fast-and-loose DV, the film is guided by confident young Ethiopian-American doctor Mehret Mandefro, whose patients Chevelle and Tara serve as the face of the disease. Their histories are heartbreaking: Chevelle was abandoned by her family as a teen and ended up in a life of prostitution for drugs, and Tara was the victim of long-term sexual abuse. (The most curious storyline—that the now drug-free Chevelle and her HIV-positive fiancée are raising a three-year-old who, blessedly, didn't inherit the virus—is disappointingly not explored in much detail.) Dr. Mandefro—sometimes seen lecturing to students and academics with bullet points on demystification, empowerment, and the fallacies of the "ABC" approach to prevention—is depicted as superheroic as she pursues a research grant, hosts candid "truth circles" with her girlfriends, and makes a do-gooder visit to Ethiopia, but Abt's meandering focus keeps inappropriately returning to the doc's dating woes. "Has homeboy called you?" asks Abt off-screen, further diminishing a subject she barely illuminates to begin with.

 
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