It is a film about HIV and forgiveness, George says.
Question: What inspired you to make Life Support?
Nelson George: Well Life Support is inspired by the life of my sister. She contracted the HIV virus in the early ‘90s. And at least . . . Surviving the virus, the moving forward into the __________ where she could stabilize herself and maintain her health led her to relook at her life and become sort of . . . went from being a “victim” of the virus to an advocate for survival with it. I wanted to make a film about living with HIV, not dying of HIV. And there haven’t been that many about living with it, certainly not fictional films. And so it was a chance to really tell the story of someone’s redemption, and also to tell the story about look at the difficulty of being . . . Once you’ve redeemed yourself to yourself, the people who you hurt along the way still may not forgive you. The film is kind of about the difficulty of forgiveness ultimately. And so that is what I was trying to do with Life Support through the . . . using my sister’s life as the jumping off point, and a relationship within my family – my mother and my nieces to my sister – as a jumping off point to look at how people deal with forgiveness and how hard it is to forgive. Even if someone’s doing exemplary work during the day, the traces of the past are hard to wipe away. And anyone who has dealt with anyone who is an addict I think has these complex feelings of pride in the evolution of that person. And then still the history still are very much alive when they’re there, and all the stuff they might have done that you resented them for doing. And that’s what the film really deals with. I mean the HIV thing is the big ticket thing, but I think on this level thematically that’s what we were really getting at. When my sister got the virus, I was probably not really even speaking to her very much. I wouldn’t let her in my house, certainly. I was very resentful of her. So there was a process that began in the late ‘90s when I began to see how she was really handling the virus, and how she evolved and had developed herself. And doing the film . . . I always say that even if the film hadn’t got made, the process of working on the script and developing it really rebuilt all our bonds and rebuilt our friendship, and I began to see her as a heroic person. And so it was a really . . . And it went over, you know, I would say about a six or seven year period of transformation. And there were a couple of, like, epiphanies along the way where I was like, “Oh wow.” So the film was really an attempt to grapple with my feelings about her. And once I did, I was straight ahead. It was very funny, you know. There’s a tape I can’t find anymore where I interviewed her about her life. And I taped her, and I used . . . The tape was part of my presentation to HBO actually. And it was remarkable to hear her speak. I asked her things I had never asked her. It’s funny. Having the camera there allowed me to say . . . ask her things I wouldn’t have asked her over the dinner table. How she got the virus; how long she hid it; her feelings about a lot of different things; all of which in some way or another ended up, you know, informing the script