Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Queerguru’s Ris Fatah reviews The Unabridged Mrs Vera’s Daybook : a compelling story of AIDS activism through art


The Unabridged Mrs Vera’s Daybook is a warm-hearted documentary telling the story of historic AIDS activism and related community art in San Francisco through the works of two local based artists, photographer Michael Johnstone and his partner, artist David Faulk, aka Mrs. Vera. Mrs Vera is a colorful drag/art persona, originally created by David to bring some light relief to the very political Act Up and Pride marches held in San Francisco during the early-mid 1990s. 

The documentary introduces us to the two men and they recount their family histories and their individual journeys to San Francisco where they met in the 1980s and became lovers. San Francisco at that point was reeling from the immense loss of life caused by the AIDS epidemic. The Castro area had become very quiet. San Franciscan friendships and relationships then were more likely to be focused on death rather than disco. Both men lived lives with uncertain futures, channeling this uncertainty into their art and living for the moment, as so many others did. Mrs. Vera was created to temporarily escape this reality – to provide joy and color to counteract the pandemic.

Vera’s flamboyant costumes are constructed from fabric remnants, dime store junk and even children’s tents. Anything goes really, as long as the end result is fun. She has gradually captured the imagination of fellow San Franciscans, to the point where nowadays David and Michael are joined by up to 150 other Vera’s on San Francisco’s Pride marches. The men have built up a huge collection of Vera outfits and personally dress every other Vera. 

Director, writer and producer Robert James combines archive footage from San Francisco’s ACT UP, Pride marches and the AIDS Memorial quilt ‘Names project’ with current interviews with both the artists and their friends, to paint a picture of life back then and the journey to today, with both men now long-term AIDS survivors. Current day footage includes the 150 Veras getting ready for a recent Pride march, creating their very San Franciscan ‘Verasphere’. This doc is a heartfelt nod to all the long-term AIDS survivors out there and highlights the true San Francisco style and spirit that is unique to this special city.

The film is being screened in :Out on Film – Atlanta’s LGBTQ Festival, Cinema Diverse in Palm Springs, and 
Reeling Film Fest in Chicago!



Queerguru’s Contributing Editor Ris Fatah is a successful fashion/luxury business consultant  (when he can be bothered) who divides and wastes his time between London and Ibiza. He is a lover of all things queer, feminist, and human rights in general. @ris.fatah

Posted by queerguru  at  14:01


Genres:  documentary

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