Struggling with survivor’s guilt, a long-term survivor rediscovers love

“After Louie,” the award-winning film that made the film festival circuit last year, follows Sam (played by Alan Cumming), an artist and activist from ACT UP who lived through the early years of HIV/AIDS—a man scarred and still struggling with survivor’s guilt. Cemented into an oppressive past, he is bewildered by a younger generation of carefree gay men with their uninhibited use of social media, sexting, and seeming political indifference. But when he meets the seductive young Braeden (Zachary Booth), an intergenerational relationship blossoms between them—one capable of reawakening Sam’s artistic soul and reviving his wilted heart.

According to the New York Times, After Louie is “a film that feels authentic when portraying those who survived the worst years of the AIDS epidemic (it’s not surprising to learn that Mr. Gagliostro was an early member of ACT UP) and when conveying the bittersweet passing of time in anyone’s life, gay or straight.”

“When I was your age, younger, all my friends were dying,” Sam, a gay man in his 50s, tells his 20-something lover. “I went to funerals twice a week.”

Sam, the character played by Cummings, had been an AIDS activist decades ago who watched his partner die of AIDS, and is haunted by the past. “Like a former soldier, this middle-aged man grapples with survivor’s guilt, and with the sort of emptiness of a battlefield after the war ends,” the Times review states.

“I am a survivor of my own generation,” says first-time director Vincent Gagliostro. “A generation of people who were young activists during the AIDS epidemic and who today, having survived, continue to be affected and haunted by their history. We fought. We lost many but we won…winner’s remorse.”

As opposed to making a painting where he can hide everything, Gagliostro says he had to understand himself more deeply than he ever had to when making the film. “I had stories to tell that no longer could be abstracted onto a canvas… I grew increasingly aware that a younger generation of gay men would never experience the benefits of the great gay sexual revolution, and feared the older ones could only remember how it was.

“What is happening to us, to me, today, and when did we stop talking?” asks Gagliostro. “How do I connect to those who don’t recognize what I went through? How do we pass along our stories and lessons to a younger generation? Is to survive to understand? We need to start talking. The dying has stopped and we are disengaged not only from AIDS activism but for some, ourselves—each other and our community.

“My hope is that my film is the new conversation. A start. We need to start talking.”

After Louie is now available on iTunes and all other platforms: com/us/movie/after-louie/ id1349167153. Go to