Beat Goes On is an impressionistic portrait of the activist Keith Cylar (1958–2004), co-founder of Housing Works and a central figure in the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) NY. Cylar spoke clearly, frequently and with moral force about the struggles of people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, many of whom were impoverished and struggling with multiple social and medical problems. His openness about his own drug use and the centrality of the fight against the criminalization of drugs for AIDS activism make Cylar's legacy especially resonant and relevant at this time. A fellow harm reduction activist recalls how "Keith moved from mixing with the government, to threatening the government, to beating the government—all in the space of five minutes." By resurfacing and weaving together archival media of Cylar's own words and actions, this video endeavors to convey—in the space of about five minutes—some of the personal charisma, political savvy and fearlessness that characterized Cylar's advocacy.
Commissioned in 2019 as part of STILL BEGINNING, a program of seven short videos responding to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic.
About the artist
Shanti Avirgan is a documentary producer and archival researcher who has worked on several films related to the AIDS crisis including Pills Profits Protest (2004); Sex in an Epidemic (2009); Larry Kramer in Love & Anger (2015); 5B (2019) and a forthcoming film about the photographer Peter Hujar. She was a producer for National Geographic's climate change TV series Years of Living Dangerously and associate producer for the feature documentaries The Yes Men Are Revolting (2014) and Life, Animated (2016). Shanti is currently producing Jean Carlomusto's new film Esther Newton Made Me Gay (2020) and working as an archival producer for a new Netflix comedy series and a documentary series for HBO. Shanti holds degrees in Latin American studies, medical anthropology and documentary filmmaking from UT Austin and NYU and was a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil at the Federal University of Bahia. She grew up in Tanzania and Costa Rica and has lived in Brooklyn since 1999.
︎ Resource Guide
︎ Watch a conversation with Shanti Avirgan, Viva Ruiz, and Jack Waters & Victor F.M. Torres