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Doc Stories premieres AIDS ward movie ‘5B’

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The cast and crew of “5B” appeared Sunday at the Castro Theatre at the premiere of the documentary about the famed San Francisco General Hospital ward where AIDS patients were cared for. (Leslie Katz/S.F. Examiner)

Filmmaker Dan Krauss and a dozen members of his compassionate cast of “5B” were on hand at the Castro Theatre Sunday for the world premiere of “5B,” a moving documentary about the one-of-a-kind San Francisco General Hospital ward where patients were treated during the AIDS crisis.

“We found it crucial, and indispensable, to have every voice present,” said Krauss, surrounded by nurses, doctors, volunteers, health workers, family members and a journalist (Hank Plante) who appeared in the film, which closed SFFILM’s four-day Doc Stories series with a capacity crowd in attendance.

Unusually, Krauss, an Oscar nominee, said he couldn’t cut any of the interviewees from the movie, which details how everyday caretakers — professionals and non-professionals — rallied to support gay patients dying of AIDS in the 1980s, a time of uncertainty, upheaval and panic.

“The timing for it is perfect,” said Cliff Morrison, one of the nurses in the movie, pointing to today increasingly intolerant social and political climate.

Rita Rockett, a dynamo blond volunteer who routinely supplied entertainment and meals for patients on the ward — her scenes are perhaps the film’s most fun moments — said, “I was just a regular girl. I did what I had to do. If you love San Francisco, San Francisco loves you back.”

Alison Moed Paolercio, the nurse manager on the ward, pointed to the many people who didn’t appear in the film — social workers, chaplains, hospice workers, counselors, other patients — who contributed to the ward’s success in holistically treating dying patients.

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