Fifteen years ago, POV broadcast the documentary Silverlake Life: The View From Here by Tom Joslin and Peter Friedman. And from now until February 22, 2009, a streaming version of this groundbreaking film will be available for free on the POV website. Silverlake Life is one of several full-length films being streamed by POV.

Tom Joslin and Mark Massi in Silverlake Life

Mark Massi (left) and Tom Joslin in Silverlake Life

Silverlake Life had its national broadcast premiere on June 15, 1993 and was also broadcast the same night in France and Germany. The film drove home the devastation of AIDS to millions of viewers who had no direct experience of the epidemic. While looking unflinchingly at death, this day-to-day video diary also makes it clear that life and hope go on. “No one who sees [the film] through to its unexpectedly buoyant final scene will regret the time spent or be unchanged by the experience,” said Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan.

When filmmaker Tom Joslin‘s partner Mark Massi developed full-blown AIDS in 1989, Joslin began to document Massi’s illness in a video diary. Soon, Joslin became sick as well, and the two men filmed each other in their daily triumphs and sorrows, capturing their love and commitment on camera even as their health continued to deteriorate. Everyday chores became excruciatingly difficult, every act of living with AIDS was also a political statement — and through it all, Joslin and Massi took care of each other as their bodies were wasting away. Silverlake Life is a powerful film about AIDS and mortality, but it is also an extraordinary love story.

After Joslin died, his friend and former student Peter Friedman finished the film. Silverlake Life won numerous awards upon its release, including the Prix Italia, a Peabody Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival. It was named “One of the Best Films of the Decade” by Utne Reader and the Village Voice. Entertainment Weekly gave the film an A+ in its 1993 review.

After you finish watching the film, you can also view a 2003 epilogue to the film on the KCET website with additional footage that isn’t in the film. An audio interview with filmmaker Peter Friedman is available on the same page.

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Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.