Phil interviews Keith Haring

Film is what Phil is best remembered for—however, he didn't begin making films until the last 5-6 years of his life. His films took liberties—letting everyone know how he and his community felt.

"Rights and Reactions: Lesbian and Gay Rights on Trial"

In 1971, New York City was the first jurisdiction in the world to propose protecting people from discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation." But while many American cities passed such human rights laws in the 1970s and early 1980s, New York's City Council resisted as the gay and lesbian community and its supporters squared off year after year with opponents, mostly from the City's conservative Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant fundamentalist communities.

In 1986, five years into the AIDS epidemic, the leadership of the Council changed and the bill, Intro 2, looked as if it would finally pass. Filmmakers Phil Zwickler and Jane Lippman capture the heat of that debate inside City Hall and in the streets of New York featuring gay and lesbian activists, religious leaders on both sides, legal experts, union leaders, people with AIDS, talk radio hosts, and politicians from Ed Koch and David Dinkins to feisty Council Members Miriam Friedlander and Noach Dear.

The bill did pass the City Council by a vote of 21-14 on March 21, 1986 and was signed into law on April 2. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (defined as "heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality) in jobs, housing and public accommodations. In 2002, the City's human rights law was also amended to cover "gender identity and expression," protecting people of transgender experience.
—Andy Humm

To learn more about Rights and Reactions, please click here.


Silence = Death and Positive were the first and second parts of an AIDS trilogy by Rosa von Praunheim made in 1989. Phil collaborated on both films, and was the central figure in Positive.

To learn more about these two films, please click here.


A collaboration between Phil Zwickler and David Wojnarowicz.

"An exploration concerning the act of revealing to a potential lover that one is sero-positive to HIV, the virus believed to cause AIDS. "Go-Go boys" from New York's Pyramid Club bump and grind while sizing up each other's mortality."
—Phil and David

" of the year's best short films..."
—Vito Russo, The Advocate, 1990

To learn more about Fear of Disclosure, please click here.

  To view Needle Nightmares,
  please click on the image.

I'm not sure that Phil ever really wanted Needle Nightmares to show publicly. It's also unclear whether he deliberately left it as it is or never had a chance to finish it. In any case, it is a unique view of the pyschological effects of the ravages of AIDS. The direct address and matter of fact tone of the voiceover with an undercurrent of sarcasm and cynicism create a touching, detailed and precise portrait of Phil Zwickler without a single image of him ever appearing.

We showed it soon after Phil's death in the 1991 edition of the New York Lesbian & Gay Experimental Film Festival and I showed it again in 2000 at the Guggenheim as part of the series, Fever in the Archive. Unlike Fear of Disclosure or Phil's other works, I don't think it showed in very many places. Perhaps it was too understated, too personal, too raw.
—Jim Hubbard

The following are interviews about Phil's life and work. Please click on the images below to watch.

Running Time: 0:05:21

A GMHC Interview with Phil Zwickler on AIDS.


Running Time: 7:25 mins.

Phil interviews David Wojnarowicz about a NEA project grant for a gallery show. Also, click on the images below to read related articles.

  "Judge Blocks Anti-NEA Pamphlet"
The Washington Post
by Paula Span, June 26, 1990
  "The Endowment vs. the Arts: Anger and Concern"
The New York Times
by William H. Honan, November 10, 1989

Running Time: 0:05:21

An interview with Baynard Rustin about civil rights.


Running Time: 0:34:00
This is 34 minutes of the 1:15 minute video.