'5B': Why Miles Teller is championing the 'inspiring' documentary (Exclusive)
This weekend, an important film telling the unheralded true story of the first HIV/AIDS ward United States at San Francisco General Hospital will open in theaters.
"5B," out on June 14, tells the remarkable tale of the nurses, patients, loved ones and volunteers who were part of Ward 5B when it was built in 1983, at a time when many were looking the other way.
Presented by RYOT, a Verizon Media company (of which AOL is also a part), the documentary featured first-hand accounts from many of those involved with the ward. The film is also being promoted by some influential names in Hollywood like Julianne Moore, Miles Teller and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in support of (RED)'s fight to end AIDS, with a portion of the film's net proceeds going to the Global Fund (which receives all of (RED)'s monies).
Ahead of the film's release, AOL's Gibson Johns spoke with Miles Teller about the film, the personal reason that it struck such a chord in him and how he uses his platform for good.
Check out our interview below:
You're helping (RED) promote this documentary, "5B." Talk to me about the first time you saw the film and why it struck such a chord with you.
The first time seeing this movie, a lot of people will have this reaction of being a bit ashamed. Even though I wasn’t alive when the story started happening, you’re ashamed that we would treat any of our sick in the way that we did, but then it obviously moves on to asking, "Wow did they contract this disease? Oh, that’s wrong and now these people are bad people who don’t deserve the compassion and empathy that we should be showing them." That was my first take on it, and then I just felt like I wanted to be a champion of the nurses and the caretakers, and I'm so glad that this story has been dug out of the archives and is being brought up again, because it is a part of our history in a very big way. We’ve evolved and we’ve changed and we’re slowly starting to, in a larger picture, humanize the condition, personalize the disease and get a good amount of people to empower it in a lot of ways and realize it’s not something that’s just for this type of person or that type of person. It’s an American problem, and it’s something that companies like (RED) are helping to collect proceeds for in order to make real change. What more can you ask from a film than to be educating and inspiring and thought-provoking?
The documentary premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and had another premiere event at LA Pride, which are both humungous events. What's the importance of this film getting shown on those big platforms? What do you think people will ideally take from this movie?
It’s a credit to the film and the filmmakers, and it’s a credit to the Cannes Film Festival. Cannes always plays themselves not just on a national stage but really a global stage. The amount of different films and participants that they have every year, there is no film festival that compares to it. That’s what these films need. I’ve certainly been part of some smaller films and, if they don’t have the momentum or the festival support or the right people championing it, then they go away. This is some pretty old footage, but the reason why it’s been able to get this treatment is that it’s so timely today. It’s bigger than HIV and AIDS. It’s about, "Look at what we did, look at what we’ve done. The people in the past that we just felt at the time were sinful or bad people because they don’t fit the American narrative that we want or the picture of the person we want to help or empathize with." I hope that this film helps change that. It’s always nice when you make a film and you’re able to teach people and show people something in a different way than an article can’t.
There's something about confronting people with this horror that can surely change people's mentalities. Nothing can really spark change like seeing footage like this.
Yeah, because it puts faces to it. In the movie, when it shows the one guy whose parents wouldn’t even come see him because of their religious beliefs ... we’re still dealing with that: Religion seems to be at the forefront of so many strongly-worded opinions on whether someone is a good person or not, and I hope this brings awareness to it.
For me, personally, watching the film’s focus on the nurses and caretakers [struck a chord] because my uncle is quadriplegic and has been since he was 17. He’s almost 60 now. It’s my mom’s brother, and he’s been a part of my life since I was born, so from a very early age my mom was taking me into nursing homes and, when he was getting bad treatment or getting neglected, his quality of life was very low. It was terrible for him, because he was unable to do things himself, and my mom actually moved him from this place in New Jersey where nurses weren’t doing a great job and drove him down to Florida to where he’s been for the last 20 years. Just seeing the change in him and how much happier he is, it’s about those men and women who take the time to say, “Okay, I will drive you here. I’ll take you to the movies and do other things that you can’t do yourself.” Things that they don’t have to do, but they want to do. Those people become part of our extended family. We have them over for holidays. and we are just so grateful for their time.
You're working with (RED) to use your platform as a celebrity to encourage people to see this movie and raise awareness. More generally, I'd love to hear about when using your platform to enact change and putting your voice behind important causes became important for you?
For me, anything you can be an ambassador for or lend your voice to something to help entice change or if you can be part of a charity, that’s something that my mom and my dad and my grandparents instilled in me at a young age and it was always something that I took a lot of pride in. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had some opportunities to use my voice on a bigger platform and help raise funds or donate my time for a larger narrative or mission. With that, it’s something that I’m excited I was initially able to do at Cannes and continue to do with (RED).
What's your relationship with (RED) specifically? Do you hope to work more with the organization in the future?
It’s fairly recent, because it started at Cannes and I had seen the documentary before that, so I knew that I was going to be there at the same time and I wanted to help and bring attention to it. Moving forward, it’s something that -- now that we’ve made that connection and we've opened that dialogue -- this can just be the start. I look forward to a lot more opportunities like this.