Remembering the Man
Tim Conigrave, John Caleo
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…uplifting and hopeful…
This beautifully crafted documentary is a companion piece to Neil Armfield’s Holding The Man, as it revisits the lives of Tim Conigrave and his lover, John Caleo. Where Armfield and playwright, Tommy Murphy, dramatised Conigrave’s seminal book, filmmakers, Nickolas Bird and Eleanor Sharpe, get Tim to tell his own story.
In 1993, a year before his death, Conigrave participated in a project for The National Library, which aimed to capture the thoughts and feelings of a vanishing generation – Australian gay men dying of HIV/AIDS. Utilising this recorded testimony, interviews with the couple’s friends, and astonishing archival footage, Bird and Sharpe build a vivid and compelling account of the boys’ lives. They chart a lot of what we already know from both book and film, but give a much greater depth and resonance to the events. From this perspective, Tim’s parents take on a more subtle tone than we’ve previously known, while priests at Xavier College are remembered fondly, enlightened even, in their treatment of the boys’ relationship. In all, Remembering The Man reveals a more open era.
At least at first. Once diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, a brutal reality sets in as the virus commands Tim’s life, and takes John’s. It’s not easy to watch, and nor should it be. But such is the enduring love for the pair from close friends and anyone who came to know them that Remembering The Man becomes a strangely cathartic experience, even for those who only met them in Tim’s book. Their haunting presence through images, footage, and Conigrave’s oral history, cement that feeling. Despite the tragedy that is at the heart of this documentary, it, like Holding The Man, is a peculiarly uplifting and hopeful film. Operatic even. Tim would have liked that.