In the eighties and nineties, as the United States gay community was
being ravaged by AIDS, families and friends of the dying fought a public
battle to find treatment and understanding. The AIDS Memorial Quilt was
conceived "as a weapon against not only the disease but the cruelty and
bigotry that the disease exposed," according to one of its founders, Cleve Jones.
Today the Quilt is a handmade testament to both the struggle of the early
days of the epidemic and its continued impact today, as panels representing
lives lost to the disease continue to stream in from all over the world. The
Last One is a feature-length documentary that frames the quest to sew the
last panel into the Quilt, representing the end of AIDS.
Through archival footage, verite scenes and interviews with founder Cleve Jones,
self-described "Hand Maiden of the Quilt" Gert McMullin, and other early
volunteers and panel makers, The Last One uncovers the birth of The AIDS
Memorial Quilt and its subsequent impact on politics, science and the media. Through activists like Patricia Nalls and Regan Hoffman, the film explores the role the Quilt continues to play as
a response to a disease that, while treatable for some, still affects
vulnerable communities around the world.
In 1987, a single panel--unlike any other panel submitted before or
delivered anonymously to The NAMES Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt with
no letter, no background, no instructions. But the caretakers of The Quilt knew
just what to do with this panel: Hold on to it and to the hope it conveyed until
it could be sewn into The AIDS Memorial Quilt as "The Last One."
It is now not only possible, but realistic to imagine an end to stigma and an
end to AIDS. It is possible to imagine a day when the NAMES Project can sew "The
Last One" panel into The AIDS Memorial Quilt. Science has begun to articulate a
new AIDS narrative: if we test and treat enough people globally, the trajectory
of the AIDS epidemic can be changed and we will begin to end AIDS, and The Last
One can become a reality.