HBO's Life Support

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Photo credit:  Paul Schiraldi, HBO

The number 1 cause of death in African American men and women between the ages of 17 and 34 is FEAR.  The second most prevalent cause of death among our people is IGNORANCE.  Life Support, a riveting HBO Films drama, starring Oscar nominee and platinum-selling recording artist, Queen Latifah (“Chicago�), debuts Saturday, March 10th on HBO, with a special Black History Month sneak preview on HBO On Demand the week of February 26.

Life Support is a tasty and inspiring drama based on the life of director, Nelson George’s own sister, who has been HIV positive for 10 years, and the days in the life of those who live with the virus.  Shot at various locations in Brooklyn, NYC, Life Support is about much more than a woman's journey to redemption and a family struggling to rebuild bonds. Anyone  who struggles with forgiving a loved one; anyone who needs and seeks forgiveness, needs to see HBO's Life Support.  Rather than a story of sickness and death, it is a moving story of healing and how love can bring sweetness to even what seems to be the bitterest of circumstances. 

Appropriately titled, Life Support, the movie, is exactly that.  Those who are afraid of getting tested for HIV should definitely see Life Support.  It will put away your fears and help you to understand that there is plenty of hope and life for people living with the virus and more importantly, it brings forth the fact that what can kill you much quicker than the virus is one's own fear.  You will discover creative ways to protect yourself, how to protect unborn children, what to do if your man has recently been released from prison – hint, hint and a lot more crucial information and uplifting philosophies.

Life Support is executive produced by Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx (“Ray�), Queen Latifah, Jaime Rucker King (“Ray�), Marcus King (“Jamie Foxx:  Unpredictable�), Shakim Compere (“Beauty Shop�) and Shelby Stone (HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues�); Mark A. Baker (HBO’s “Oz�) produces.  Sam Martin is the executive in charge of production for HBO.

Also appearing in Life Support are Anna Deavere Smith (“The West Wing�), Wendell Pierce (HBO’s “The Wire�), Evan Ross (the upcoming “P.D.R.�), Rachel Nicks, Darrin Dewitt Henson (“Soul Food�), Gloria Reuben (“ER�), Tony Rock (“All of Us�) and Tracee Ellis Ross (“Girlfriends�).

Life Support uses a mix of actors and real people from the HIV/AIDS community to tell the story of HIV-positive Ana Wallace, who channels her energy and regret over past drug addiction into working for Life Support, an AIDS outreach group. 

Everyone in Life Support delivers a magnificent performance. They bring you right into real life where you can actually feel and become part of the experience.

Queen Latifah, in the role of Ana, gives a command performance as she creates a seamless relationship between Ana and her audience; making you feel this woman’s pain and triumphs.  Queen Latifah’s genuineness shines whether she’s sacheting down the Red Carpet or getting her gangsta stroll on down Pitkin Avenue.  I love a diva who can get raw, stripping out of that Cover Girl glow and showing what’s really up in the morning before the mask. I don’t cry at movies but believe me – the Queen brought my sniffle on for a moment. 

Anna Deavere Smith, who played Ana’s mother was amazing as she conveys the role of a mother who has experienced the worst betrayals – her daughter’s drug addition and the misery it brings to a family – and her journey to forgiveness. 

Wendell Pierce delivers well in his role as Ana’s husband, the partner who infected her with the virus. Ladies, get your Bailey’s and ice cream ready for girls night, huddle up and watch this film together because you’re going to have a lot to say about this movie -- especially, the husband from many different perspectives.

Evan Ross, son of sound and screen legend, Diana Ross, did a phenomenal job as Omari, the HIV infected teenager who lost both his parents.  I expect to be seeing a lot more of him in the movies. 

All you Hollywood divas, make way for the new kid in town – beautiful, vivacious Rachel Nicks, who makes her movie debut in Life Support, and skint it as Kelly, Ana’s embittered older daughter who now lives with the grandmother as a result of her mother’s previous drug addiction and obvious neglect. 

You will fall in love with all of these characters.

Tony Rock (All Of Us) has a crafty way of bringing humor to tragedy and is quite endearing in his role as Ness.

Tracee Ellis Ross (Girlfriends) is a dynamo.  She really gets her point across like we “sustas� do it here in Brooklyn. 

Everybody did a magnificent job.  Life Support is a stimulating and more than likely, life altering experience.

Life Support was written by Nelson George, Jim McKay (HBO’s “Angel Rodriguez�) and Hannah Weyer (“Angel Rodriguez�)  and is executive produced by Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx (“Ray�), Queen Latifah, Jaime Rucker King (“Ray�), Marcus King (“Jamie Foxx:  Unpredictable�), Shakim Compere (“Beauty Shop�) and Shelby Stone (HBO’s “Lackawanna Blues�).  Mark A. Baker (HBO’s “Oz�) produced it.  Sam Martin is the executive in charge of production for HBO.

Nelson George is a writer, director, filmmaker and cultural critic who has been working professionally in literature and film for over 25 years.  His career began while attending New York's St. John's University in the late '70s. As an undergrad, he contributed to both the Black paper, the Amsterdam News, and the music trade publication, Billboard. After graduation he was named Black Music Editor of Billboard. During that time he published several influential books, including 'Where Did Our Love Go: The Rise and Fall of the Motown Sound' (1986) and 'The Death of Rhythm & Blues' (1988).  From 1988 to 1992, George wrote a column for the Village Voice entitled 'Native Son'.

Nelson covered the Black indie film scene since the late '70s, but became more actively involved when he moved to Fort Greene, Brooklyn in the mid-1980s. He invested in Spike Lee's landmark film, 'She's Gotta Have It' and went on to become an associate producer on 'Just Another Girl on the IRT' and to co-write the screenplays to two Hollywood features, 'Strictly Business' (starring Halle Berry) and 'CB4' (starring Chris Rock.) Nelson later worked as consulting producer on HBO's 'The Chris Rock Show' in the late '90s.

I had the opportunity to chat with Director, Nelson George, about the masterpiece, Life Support, which was inspired by his own sister, Ana Wallace who is still a crusader in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

I asked Mr. George about his experiences with his sister, Ana Wallace during the time she was shooting cocaine, which resulted in her contracting HIV from her partner, now husband.  Here is what Nelson George shared with BSN:

“When my sister, Ana was using drugs, I was very disappointed in her and I had nothing to say to her and nothing to do with her.  Ana was actually transformed by getting the virus.  It wasn’t easy to clean herself up, but she did it and she’s been doing a great job working to educate people.  She goes above and beyond to help others now.  When I saw that, I really respected that and was moved by it and really impressed by her transformation.  It changed our relationship.  We are very close now." 

“Making the film was very difficult emotionally.  I went out and followed Ana around observing her doing her work.  That totally reevaluated my feelings toward her.�

“Life Support is not just about HIV.  It’s about family. It’s not about “Oh woe is me� Black folks or people who are on their way out. It’s about fighters and survivers and winners.  It’s about working class people living in the projects of Brooklyn.  The people who actually live in the buildings the gangsters hang outside of."

"My mother worked as a bagpacker at A&P Supermarket. She built herself up to a bank teller.  Then she went to night school and became a teacher and ended up getting her Masters degree.  Anna Deavere Smith, who plays the role of my mother in the film, spent time with my mother and they talked.  The dialogue Anna Deavere Smith conveys in the film are actually what my mother said to her. These types of people – the fighters; the winners, are not seen enough in movies and they are not talked about enough in the Black communities."

"Life Support is also about how hard it is to forgive in the world.  It’s easy to decide a person is evil.  Forgiving and getting loved and respected is hard sometimes."

"Looking back, it seems all the work I did before Life Support was all part of the journey leading up to this film.�

To learn more about Nelson George and his works, logon to 

Brenda Jeanne Wyche, is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News, CEO of Winning Strategies & Associates and VP of Public Relations and Communications for The Professionals.  If you have a solution, contact .  Maybe we’ll talk.

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