Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Racing for Their Lives

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Racing for Their Lives

Article excerpt

In a stirring new documentary, an HIV-positive crew competes in a famed yacht race

Rock the Boat * Directed by Bobby Houston * Tell the Truth Pictures

If I have one life to live, let me live it as a stockbroker. What a deal. You make your first fortune by 26, burn out by 29, then take your pile and reinvent yourself by 30 with the sort of creativity and daring that we liberal arts drudges spend our lives dreaming about.

Perhaps that doesn't precisely reflect the career arc of Robert Hudson, a former moneyman turned sea maven. Diagnosed with HIV in 1991, this rugged Californian eventually founded a nonprofit support system for AIDS survivors, then got this dewy-eyed notion to sail an all-HIV-positive crew across the Pacific. In 1997 Hudson and nine guys with lousy T-cell counts entered the celebrated Transpacific Yacht Race from California to Hawaii. An 11th sailor, the only HIV-negative one, came along. He brought a movie camera.

Rock the Boat is the result, and it's as stirring an adventure as you are likely to see this year. Bobby Houston's peripatetic lens captures it all: the down-to-the-wire prelaunch snafus, the "Will they make it to the starting gate?" tensions, the storms at sea, the smoldering personality conflicts, the stoically uttered nauticalspeak, the eleventh-hour challenges, the "Will they make it to the finish line?" tensions. It will make you feel butch by proxy.

Like so many really good documentaries, Rock the Boat has the integrity to become something other than what it may have initially intended. Houston, whom we observe only once in a brief prologue in which he recites a litany of loved ones lost to AIDS, seems from the outset to be pointing us toward a conventionally inspirational triumph-of-human-spirit thing. The early footage spends a goodly amount of time with finger-wagging safe-sex messages as it underscores just how sick these guys were before the coming of protease inhibitors. …

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