Dr. Fauci, Movie Star – The New York Times


When the pandemic hit, Dr. Fauci’s likeness was suddenly everywhere — on socks, coffee mugs, prayer candles, cupcakes. His fans tried to nominate him to be People magazine’s 2020 “Sexiest Man Alive.” Only later would the downside of stardom emerge.

Mr. Hoffman, the other director, who had also worked on health-related films, saw a hot story and reached out to Ms. Tobias. Mr. Hoffman sifted through archival footage and conducted interviews — 20 hours with Dr. Fauci alone — while Ms. Tobias moved to Washington, D.C., from New York so she could join Dr. Fauci’s Covid bubble and film safely during lockdown.

“His head of security and I were doing nose swabbing five days a week,” she recalled.

The documentary toggles back and forth between voices of his detractors, then and now: AIDS activists toting mock-ups of Dr. Fauci’s bloody head on a stick, chanting, “Liar, Fauci!” and calling him a murderer. Conservative commentators proclaiming he should be “fired, indicted and thrown in jail.”

While there are parallels between the two eras, Dr. Fauci sees a significant difference. The AIDS activists who attacked him were fighting for their own lives. “I cared about them, and they were fighting for a good cause,” he said in the interview at his home. “They weren’t fighting for a conspiracy theory.”

The film features a clip of a television interviewer remarking that AIDS affects “only a small unsavory group of people.” Dr. Fauci strongly objects. “These individuals who are infected, be they homosexuals or I.V. drug abusers are people,” he says. “People who deserve compassion, who deserve care and who deserve concern.”

It is Dr. Fauci “as a humanist,” Mr. Hoffman says, that he hopes viewers will remember.

The film does not dwell too heavily on Dr. Fauci’s frequent clashes with former President Donald J. Trump, who called Dr. Fauci “a disaster” and openly toyed with firing him. (He had no authority to do so, because Dr. Fauci is not a political appointee.) But the movie does offer a peek into the tensions, when his assistant tells him the White House has rejected television interview requests because it wants the focus on the economy.

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