PARK CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – This year at Sundance there will be one film with a local focus made by three local filmmakers. “Quiet Heroes” explores the AIDS crisis in Salt Lake City, and how two medical professionals stood up in the face of adversity to treat the patients no one else would.
Dr. Kristen Ries and Physician Assistant Maggie Snyder worked together in the 80s, during the AIDS epidemic in Utah. These two women, and their involvement in the early years of HIV and AIDS are the focus of “Quiet Heroes.”
“People literally felt like they had no one. So when people came to our office, we embraced them like family, and they embraced us like family,” says Snyder.
Dr. Ries explains that she saw her first patient in 1982.
“One patient led to another to another to another, because my specialty is infectious diseases,” explains Dr. Ries.
Snyder says, “[Dr. Ries] was the only physician in Utah where patients with HIV could go and feel like they were getting good care without being marginalized, ostracized.”
Utah filmmakers Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga, and Amanda Stoddard put together a film that they say is vital to Utah’s history.
Ruga, who co-produced and co-directed the film says, “These are really unsung heroes…They were giving first rate medical care and saving lives, while helping people heal the emotional wounds of the exile that resulted from the shame and stigma of being diagnosed HIV positive.”
Ruga began working on “Quiet Heroes” in 2015 when he was approached by one of his professors at the University of Utah Law School. He said he immediately knew this story needed to be documented on film.
“My personal stake in this story was to honor the history of the LGBT community in Salt Lake. We really banded together in a time of crisis, before I was even born,” says Ruga, “I wanted to show that even when the stakes are that high, and even when things get that bad, there’s still people who will help.”
Stoddard, also a co-director and co-producer of the project, was heavily involved in the editing process.
“Everybody who shows up in the film had a piece to play in that story…What happened at the height of the aids crisis here in Utah?” says Stoddard.
Jenny Mackenzie is the director of the film.
Mackenzie says, “Even though it’s a historical piece, it’s really a timeless story…There were many profound moments throughout the filming process, but probably the ones that come to mind for me are hearing Kristen and Maggie go back to so many painful memories…So being able to work with them, and hear the stories that I think were somewhat repressed…was very profound.”
The two main subjects of the film are glad to have their story, and the stories of victims across the nation, preserved.
“The documentary documents the history of people, and the importance of even now in unsettled political arena, it’s important to love each other,” says Snyder.
Dr. Ries adds, “Doing the documentary has made us learn so much more…I think more people were quietly helping more than we knew I think.
“Quiet Heroes” premiers this Sunday, January 21st at the Rose Wagner Theater. Sundance begins Thursday, January 18, 2018.