Here is another film of which I knew nothing that - thanks to my membership in NetFlix - has brought two intensely entertaining and thought-provoking hours to my life. It comprises three tales of the worldwide AIDS epidemic each unique and impressive.
The first takes place in rural China where Lucy Liu plays Jin Ping - a woman who is a black-marketeer of blood products. She and her partners prey upon residents of small villages who are basically ignorant of the complexities and dangers involved in donating blood. The villagers are poor, and the promise of much-needed funds is the bait used by Jin Ping. A farmer who is unable to give blood uses his daughter as the donor in order to make a better life for his family. The farmer and his daughter are played by two extraordinary Chinese actors who bring humor and - in the end - great pathos to their parts. In this first of the three parts the film shows ruin and death brought to an entire village through greed and apathy.
The second tale narrower in scope but is the most fascinating of the three. It takes place in French-Canada and revolves around a porn star and his family. Stockard Channing plays the mother in what is one of the strangest and most fascinating roles I have ever seen. To tell more would spoil the film for anyone who might view it, but I can assure you that Channing has accomplished something special in her portrayal of a mother's reaction to the illness of her son.
The third story in the film stars Olympia Dukakis, Chloë Sevigny, and Sandra Oh as nuns who travel to Africa to assist at a clinic. They become involved in various ways with the workers and the large agricultural company for which most of the local villagers work. In this third tale the scenery is so beautiful and impressive that it is almost beyond comprehension. The viewer is struck that within all of this natural beauty, lurks a deadly disease destroying the population.
In most films in which the driving theme is the destructiveness of AIDS, you would expect to see at least some characters who are gay men. There is not one gay person in this film. That very fact enhances the film's powerful message that this epidemic is not one confined to a small segment of society but to the world's civilization as a whole. If you wish to observe disease, religion, avarice, politics, love, hate and still be thoroughly entertained, I recommend 3 Needles.