Chocolate Babies

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Stephen Winter

REVIEWED: 05-18-98

(This is a reprint of The Austin Chronicle review that ran in the March 21, 1997 issue after this film premiered in Austin at the SXSW '97 Film Festival. Chocolate Babies received an honorable mention award at SXSW in the best narrative feature category.) Welcome to the front lines of AIDS activism, where the latest enemy raids are being run by a band of unlikely warriors: two drag queens, an HIV-positive man with tiny gemstones dotting his bald head, and his HIV-positive sister. These self-proclaimed "black faggots with a political agenda" launch street assaults on conservative politicians who won't support a hospice in their New York City neighborhood, but when they also manage to infiltrate the office of one such official, a city councilman who, it turns out, is deep in the closet, the action sets in motion unexpected events that begin to pull the group apart. In addition to introducing a memorable gallery of characters -- most of whom are vividly realized by a fiery cast -- screenwriter-director Stephen Winter's film plays with issues of identity: who we are and who we pretend to be. Its characters get so absorbed in their roles -- drag queen, undercover activist, closeted councilman -- that they lose sight of their more basic identities: brother, friend, lover. Winter offers no easy answers to political dilemmas, only a warning that much of what is important in life may be lost when the political consumes the personal. His Chocolate Babies amuses, provokes, touches, haunts.

--Robert Faires

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