HIV/AIDs is not an easy disease to live with.
For many people, it’s practically a death sentence that prevents you from living the life you want to live. What Mike Brown’s 25 to Life shows is that this doesn’t have to be the case. Mike Brown focuses his documentary on William Brawner, who has been living with HIV since he was 18 months old. Instead of telling a story about a man thinking about his mortality every day of his life and thinking how it could all possibly end, 25 to Life shows William Brawner living his life not as a diseased man but just as a man. While this train of thought comes with consequences, Brown doesn’t hold anything back when it comes to Brawner’s life and what we’re given is a gripping tale of one man’s reality and how he tries to find redemption in his actions.
A bit reckless, selfish, and always the life of the party during college, William Brawner wasn’t someone who thought about what he was doing — instead he just did it. He was the womanizer-type and wound up having numerous sexual encounters while not telling his partners about his health. He was diagnosed with HIV after suffering from a badly burn injury that required blood transfusions. One of those transfusion was with tainted blood and the virus was transmitted into his system. At a young age he was advised by his mother and aunt to tell no one and he did just that. He only told one person previously, his high school girlfriend, and that was after two years of being together where they had over 100 sexual encounters and miraculously she remained clear from Will’s disease.
A few years after his time spent in college, William heads down his path of redemption in an attempt to make up for all the lives he may have impacted in such a negative way. He comes out on the radio as HIV positive, he starts up a youth center for teens living HIV/AIDs, he gets married to Bridgette, someone who accepts his disease and accepts Will for his past and what he’s done. She stands beside him throughout his whole journey, pushing him to be the best man he can be. William is an unlikely face of HIV/AIDs, and to many they will look at him and see someone who is just irresponsible and someone who shouldn’t be a role model. He put lives at risk by remaining silent. But for all he has done wrong, there’s positives to his story. He’s someone who was basically given a death sentence at a young age. Instead of giving in to the disease, he took his medications, lived a healthy lifestyle, and continues to live his life. He’s now a father and both his child and wife remain HIV negative.
25 to Life is a documentary unlike any I’ve seen before. It’s easy to find yourself thinking negatively of William Brawner due to just how careless he was when he was younger. But to watch just how hard he works to make things right with the people he has wronged and how much effort he puts into becoming a positive role model for teenagers and young adults…it’s just as easy to forgive him for his past mistakes. Lucky for him, no one he has been with has contracted the HIV virus. William Brawner is both an inspiration for younger generations as well as a cautionary tale on how not to live a life with such a threatening disease.
25 To Life opens theatrically in Los Angeles on November 28, 2014. Along with a series of one-night engagements across the country including New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington DC, London and Chicago beginning on December 1 to coincide with World AIDS Day. There will be 25 screenings for 25 TO LIFE to help promote HIV/AIDS awareness across the globe. Ava DuVernay’s organization AFFRM is distributing the film.