Released in Singapore to coincide with World Aids Day (1 Dec), it actually took me this long to cast my eyes on the movie, no thanks to weird and limited screenings at one or two theatres. Perhaps it's because of the subject matter, about that disease which, as far as I can recall, doesn't get named at all in the movie, which probably won't sit down well with audiences who are up for the latest feel good movies in town this holiday season.
Written and directed by Thom Fitzgerald, 3 Needles comprises of 3 distinct stories set in 3 distinct continents - Asia, North America and Africa, but looks into a common killer disease that is plaguing our world today. It takes a look at common fears of those who have the disease, and those from high risk groups who fear of getting the disease, as well as the bad practices and schemes as perpetrated by the greed of men, eager to sacrifice all to make a quick buck.
The story arcs, in my opinion, were not weaved together to form one long narrative. Rather, it looked as if 3 short stories were glued together at the seams to make up the runtime sufficient to call itself a feature film. The first had an illegal blood trafficker, Jin Ping (Lucy Liu), milking all that its worth in a small Chinese village, and for US$5 per packet of blood, managed to entice villagers to undergo unlicensed blood donation drives for a few dollars. Next, we have a porn star Denys (Shawn Ashmore, Iceman in X-Men2 and 3) who, while aware he has the disease, covers up this knowledge through tampering with the provision of blood samples, fearing otherwise he would lose his job in the adult entertainment industry. And lastly, a group of nuns (Chloe Sevigny, Olympia Dukakis, Sandra Oh) journey to a South African village to assist in the care of the villages, only to have Sister Clara (Sevigny) deciding whether it's worth compromising her beliefs, in order to help those she cares for.
When watching these stories, you'll feel a sense of injustice as the characters do what is obviously morally incorrect. You feel angry at the way blood is trafficked without regard to safety and basic hygiene, you feel disgusted at how selfishness clouds the mind into deceit, and the better to go with others rather than oneself, and you feel sorry for the way sacrifices have to be made, while wishing eternal damnation to those who choose to exploit situations for their own gratification. As a movie, if its objectives is to make you feel for the issues presented, then it's done its part.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I find it rather strange that HIV or AIDS is never mentioned explicitly. Could it be there this "disease which shall not be named" is following its self-fulfilling prophecy amongst men that it is shameful to be infected, and the misconception that victims were actually asking for it when they engage in risky activities, to follow the common attitude to hush it all up, and choose to disbelieve the bringing forward of the expiry date on their lives?
As a movie, the presentation is rather plain, and I thought that the narrative probably would be better if the stories were somehow spliced together neatly so that it flows nicely from one arc to the next, rather than opting for the lazy obvious way to segregate them. While nothing controversial is discussed, there are a few scenes that will raise a few eyebrows, and the best amongst those involves a very pregnant Lucy LIu in a field. I don't think I've seen any such scenes in graphic detail, and definitely not in the manner presented. Beats the one which is most talked about involving Chloe Sevigny.
It doesn't offer you new insights into the disease, but exhibits on common fears from both sides, and offers the dramatization of unscrupulous acts which help to propagate the problem on a much larger scale. If you're intrigued to watch it, you have to do so soon as I suspect it wouldn't last another week at the screens. Look out too for the local actor, Ng Chin Han (from the local television "comedy" series dud Masters of the Sea) in quite a meaty role as a Chinese soldier.