House of Numbers (2009 film)

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House of Numbers
movie poster image
Directed by Brent Leung
Produced by Brent Leung
Starring Brent Leung
Music by Joel Diamond
Editing by Brent Leung
Ursula Rowan
Release dates
  • 21 June 2009 (2009-06-21)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English

House of Numbers is a controversial 2009 documentary film about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) produced and directed by Brent Leung.[1] Leung describes the film as an objective examination of the idea that HIV causes AIDS.[1] The film's claims of impartiality have generally been rejected by reviewers, who have dismissed the film as AIDS denialism and conspiracy theory disguised as objective examination.[2][3][4] Leung has declined to discuss funding for the film except to state that funders came from "all over the world".[1][5]

In the film, Leung interviews a range of scientists and AIDS denialists, including Christine Maggiore, an HIV-positive denialist whose 3-year-old daughter died of untreated AIDS. Maggiore herself died with pneumonia and several AIDS-related infections several months before the film's release, although her death is only mentioned in small print in the closing credits along with a claim that it was "unrelated to HIV."[3] A group of scientists interviewed for the film later complained that they had been interviewed under false pretenses, and that the film promotes pseudoscience.[2]

Critical reception[edit]


The film's promotion of AIDS denialism rendered it controversial and "bitterly divisive".[6] A Denver Fox affiliate TV station described the film as poorly organized and unfocused, but presenting "a barrage of intriguing theories."[7] Promotional material for the Raindance Film Festival described the film as raising "a number of challenging and disturbing thoughts."[8]

The New York Times was more critical, describing the film as "a weaselly support pamphlet for AIDS denialists", "willfully ignorant", and "a globe-trotting pseudo-investigation that should raise the hackles of anyone with even a glancing knowledge of the basic rules of reasoning."[2] The Wall Street Journal cited the film as part of "this season's fashion in conspiracy theories."[4] The Portland Oregonian criticized Leung for "not being entirely honest with viewers," and decried the film's reliance on "selective editing, anomalies and anecdotes, unsupported conclusions... and suppression of inconvenient facts."[9]

Scientific community[edit]

Reaction from the scientific community was similarly negative. Lancet Infectious Diseases criticized the film's arguments, calling them a "toxic combination of misrepresentation and sophistry."[3],[10] a website created by HIV researchers to address AIDS denialism,[11] criticized the film for concealing its "agenda behind a false veneer of honest inquiry", and published a rebuttal to some of the film's claims.[12] Ben Goldacre, writing in The Guardian, described House of Numbers as "a dreary and pernicious piece of Aids denialist propaganda."[13]

Eighteen scientists interviewed in the film state that their answers to Leung's questions were selectively edited to convey a false sense that the scientific community disagrees on basic facts about HIV/AIDS.[3] Two interviewees, Neil Constantine and Robin Weiss, cite examples supporting the allegation that Leung misrepresented their words in a "surely intentional" manner.[14] Brent Leung denied taking quotes out of context.[15]

A panel discussion of the film at a Boston film festival was disrupted by Leung and other AIDS denialists in the audience, who attempted to shout down members of the panel with whom they disagreed.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Jacobs, Ethan (April 22, 2009). "Crazy 'House'". Bay Windows. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Catsoulis, Jeanette (4 September 2009). "AIDS Seen From a Different Angle". New York Times. Retrieved 3 September 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Burki T (2009). "House of Numbers". Lancet Infect Dis 9 (12): 735. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70316-0. 
  4. ^ a b David Aaronovitch (2009-12-19). "A Conspiracy-Theory Theory. How to fend off the people who insist they know the 'real story' behind everything". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  5. ^ Ridley, Jim (2009-05-07). "Controversy lingers after premiere of Nashville director's AIDS documentary". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2010-10-02. 
  6. ^ Ridley, Jim (April 29, 2009). "For the Nashville Film Festival, there's clearly life after 40". Nashville Scene. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  7. ^ "Capsule movie reviews". KDVR. August 21, 2009. Retrieved September 8, 2009. [dead link]
  8. ^ "Raindance Film Festival". Retrieved 2010-01-15. 
  9. ^ Hall, Stan (January 21, 2010). "'House of Numbers' blurs facts on HIV". Portland Oregonian ( Retrieved May 10, 2010. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Cohen J (2007). "HIV/AIDS. Web site takes aim at 'denialists'". Science 316 (5831): 1554. doi:10.1126/science.316.5831.1554. PMID 17569834. 
  12. ^ Bergman, Jeanne (September 10, 2009). "Real Answers to the Fake Questions in "House of Numbers"". Retrieved September 22, 2009. 
  13. ^ Goldacre, Ben (September 26, 2009). "House of Numbers". The Guardian. Retrieved September 27, 2009. 
  14. ^ "Constantine and Weiss pinpoint misrepresentations". November 26, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2009. 
  15. ^

External links[edit]