One prick can kill you

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"3 Needles," Thom Fitzgerald’s star-studded and epic portrait of the global AIDS crisis, recently came to DVD. Starring Lucy Liu, Chloë Sevigny, Shawn Ashmore, Stockard Channing, Sandra Oh and Olympia Dukakis, "3 Needles" tells three stories from the pandemic set in China, Montreal and Africa.

Thom Fitzgerald, who previously directed "The Hanging Garden," "Beefcake," and "The Event," created "3 Needles" to present a portrait of people all over the world who struggle to sustain their spirits in the face of the deadly AIDS crisis. This luminous film visits rural China, a plantation in South Africa and Montreal’s porn industry, to tell three separate yet universal stories from the pandemic.

Lucy Liu is brilliant as Ping, a young pregnant Chinese woman running a black market blood collection scam that creates a mini-epidemic in a rural village. In Montreal, Denys (Shawn Ashmore) is a B-list porn actor hiding his HIV+ status from his family and his co-workers, but when his status is exposed, his mother (Stockard Channing in another spectacular performance) goes to extreme lengths to ensure her family is taken care of. And, in Africa, Chloë Sevigny, Sandra Oh and Olympia Dukakis are three nuns pulled into the dark underbelly of plantation life.

From the haunting opening sequence to the inspiring final shot, Thom Fitzgerald has given us an absolute masterpiece. With each story, he challenges your mind and tugs at your heartstrings. His cast is brilliant at every turn, delivering powerhouse performances that show restraint and taste. He tells his story through the structure of ritual, and change happens through the raising of a Chinese lantern or the lighting a votive candle.

The color red bleeds through this film like the blood poisoning the characters in Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, for which he was awarded Best Director at the Atlantic Film Festival.  In one of his boldest moves of the film, he explores the secrecy of AIDS. The terms HIV or AIDS is never uttered, but you can feel it simmering beneath the surface, bleeding through in visually stunning and arresting moments of pure red. The garments worn by Lucy Liu, the muddy puddle of gore as Chinese soldiers stomp illegally transported blood into the dry road, blood on a jagged blade during an African ritual; over and over, cinematographer Thomas M. Harting uses a bold stroke of scarlet on a stunning visual palette. 

Harting was honored with the 2005 Best Cinematography Award at the Atlantic Film Festival for "3 Needles." From the outback of Africa to the rice patties of China, to the sprawling metropolis of Montreal, shot after shot is breathtaking in it’s’ scope and brilliance. But he deftly counters with a love of the actors evidenced by the stark intimate close-ups. 

Through many different initiatives, the theatrical release of "3 Needles" raised over $50,000 for AIDS charities. "3 Needles" opened in several major cities for a special limited engagement on December 1, 2006, in conjunction with World AIDS Day. Proceeds from opening weekend screenings benefited local and national AIDS charities, including NYC’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the Boston Living Center and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, among others. 

"3 Needles" was also selected as the Opening Night Film of the 2006 United Nations AIDS Film Festival, which presented Fitzgerald with the prestigious Berthe Meka Award. Supporters of "3 Needles" rallied around the film’s Myspace profile, gathering over 5,000 friends to raise funds for the Nova Scotia Gambia Association, a nonprofit supporting AIDS relief and education in war-ravaged Sierra Leone.

The DVD edition of "3 Needles" will include a wide array of informative and fascinating bonus features, including behind-the-scenes interviews with Lucy Liu, Shawn Ashmore and Chloë Sevigny; trailers; photo gallery; deleted scenes; two short documentaries and more. The two short documentaries are "China AIDS Initiative with Magic Johnson and Yao Ming" and “House on Fire – AIDS in America.”

"3 Needles" is available at Outloud! in Nashville, on line at www.wolfevideo.com and other retailers.