Practically everything the late Chicago AIDS activist Danny Sotomayor did was "a fight."
So says fellow activist Victor Salvo in the new WTTW documentary The Outrage of Danny Sotomayor, which is part of the station's Chicago Stories series.
Salvo is one of numerous Chicagoans interviewed for the programamong them historian/author Owen Keehnen, activist Lori Cannon and former Alds. Tom Tunney and Helen Shillerwhich traces Sotomayor's life from his childhood through his activist work in Chicago at the height of the AIDS crisis, and documents his relationships with his partner, the late playwright Scott McPherson.
Writer/Producer Dan Andries said that he was "riveted" by Sotomayor's story when he came across it during his work on the 2008 documentary Out and Proud in Chicago.
"I really felt, after that experience, that his life, times and death could be a film," Andries added. "Whether it was a narrative film or a documentary, I just felt that [his story] had the proper shape, feel, trajectory and truth that would make it a great movie. I spent a lot of time talking to people about that, including colleagues here [at WTTW] and people close to him who were part of it all. I entertained the idea of writing a screenplay, and talked to lawyers about it."
Ultimately, however, Andries settled upon the documentary format, and he said that he was fortunate that a great deal of archival footage of Sotomayor still existed.
"There was a vast video archive wherein you could see Danny Sotomayor in action," he explained. "It was not like if you had Henry Gerber, for example. There's not a lot of film of Henry Gerber."
Andries's bosses at WTTW ultimately accepted a pitch to include Sotomayor's story as part of the Chicago Stories series: "You have my passion and their faith in it. That gave me the chance to make it."
He sees Sotormayor's endless of pursuit of attention, education and funding for people with HIV/AIDS as occupying a pivotal moment within the city's history. Andries said, "He made life better for so many peoplepeople who were suffering from stigma, suffering from underfunding, suffering from neglect."
He added, "The growth of Richard M. Daley into a mayor who was supportive of the gay community was very much impacted by Danny. Some people would say that he singlehanded moved the man into the right camp."
Indeed, Sotomayor was a persistent thorn in the administration's side during the height of his activism. The Outrage of Danny Sotomayor chronicles numerous run-ins between Sotomayor and Daley, who attended the activist's funeral. When Daley was at Sotomayor's casket, someone joked that's how they knew Sotomayor was really goneSotomayor would have sat up in his coffin and confronted Daley otherwise.
Andries felt it was important to underline Sotomayor's influence as an organizer in the program.
"Danny was aligned with ACT UP Chicago," Andries said. "Danny was not just Danny, and ACT UP Chicago was a powerful group of people who worked together. For better or worse, he was the torch-bearer. I think group like that need that kind of person. He says in the documentary, 'I need the movement and the movement needs me.' I think he was dead-on."
Chicago Stories: The Outrage of Danny Sotomayor airs Friday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. on WTTW. It can also be streamed at http://www.wttw.com/chicagostories.