Filmmaker Rohan Spong Celebrates the Music of AIDS Victims

Filmmaker Rohan Spong Celebrates the Music of AIDS Victims
an impromptu concert in Mimi's apartment
(Photograph by Kyle Steven-Porter)

Australian born independent filmmaker Rohan Spong found success with his first feature film “T Is for Teacher” (2009), an insight into the lives of four transgendered school teachers in the American Schools.  It is his latest film, however, that has catapulted Rohan into the limelight and etched his name into the annals of film history.

All The Way Through Evening” celebrates the life of eccentric “70-something” New York based pianist Mimi Stern-Wolfe who produces and performs a concert dedicated to the work of music composers who have succumbed to the ravages of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 

Every year for the last 20 years, Mimi and her small ensemble (2 vocalists and a cellist) painstakingly rehearse several numbers ahead of the World AIDS Day concert program. Spong’s engaging and poignant documentary charts Mimi's struggle as she prepares for the concert, and is a true testament to the strength of friendship and the power of music.

“It's a film about a number of themes - HIV/AIDS obviously, but it also speaks of the power of music, of art as activism, of getting older, of love, of loss, and of this one very extraordinary woman who has devoted some twenty years of her life to try and keep history alive in people's minds,” says Spong.

Just as her music is the means by which she keeps the legacy of her long-lost friends alive, Mimi’s story becomes the vehicle for the chronicling of the era when the HIV/AIDS pandemic swept through a downtown arts community and ravaged the world. Accompanied by the moving music written by those departed, the film recalls this tragedy with candid interviews from friends, family and the lovers that survived it. Several of the musical works from the early era of HIV/AIDS in New York are presented amongst the moving recollections of the composers’ lovers, friends and collaborators.

According to Spong, “the film examines a very specific neighbourhood in New York and a very specific circle of men, who knew each other and composed music either for pleasure or professionally. Whilst there are interviews and cinema verité sequences in the film, the emotional story would ultimately be told via the music.”

On World AIDS Day (Dec 1 2011), the film premiered at the evocative Duo Theatre in New York’s East Village to a two minute standing ovation. The film has since gone on to receive the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 NYC Downtown Film Festival, the Audience Choice Award at the 2012 Birmingham Shout! Film Festival, and the privelege of being the Closing Night Film of the 20th GAZE Film Festival in Dublin.

“All The Way Through Evening” can be seen at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova until the 9th of January. For tickets and screening times visit the Cinema Nova website here

Please consider visiting Mimi's website and donating in order that she can continue to present these works in concert