The initial titles of Laurie Lynd’s Killing Patient Zero lay bare the film’s thesis through the guise of a multi-layered definition for the word zero. Ultimately, it is the combination of the word zero as both a representation of worthlessness, and zero as an origin point, where Lynd’s work luminally exists as an investigation of the AIDS crisis’ shock waves within gay communities throughout the 1980s, and the subsequent vilification Gaëtan Dugas, a Quebecois flight attendant long referred to as the disease’s “patient zero.” Within the film’s tight hundred-minute run time, Lynd’s diverging story paths come together to interrogate the deep roots of the fear found within phobia, and the real lives irrevocably affected.
Much of Killing Patient Zero exists within the varying interviews conducted over the course of the film. I would estimate that a good ninety percent of the film is interview, with the remaining ten consisting of varying forms of archival footage. The interview emphasis necessitates a stellar list of experts, and thankfully Lynd delivers. While talking head documentaries occasionally feel somewhat didactic, one gets the sense from watching Killing Patient Zero that they could listen to many of these voices discuss sociopolitical history and personal experiences for hours on end. In particular, Toronto-based film director John Greyson (whose 1993 work Zero Patience touched on similar territory to Lynd’s piece) and scholar B. Ruby Rich provide clear examples of just how crucial engaging interviews are to this style of documentary cinema.
There’s a real evocative power to Killing Patient Zero. There is also a sense of restorative justice and narrative reclamation that makes this film feel very poignant. This film is informative and powerful, and aims to provide a clear reclamation of a false truth.
- Release Date: 4/26/2019