House of Numbers (2009 film)
|House of Numbers|
|Directed by||Brent Leung|
|Produced by||Brent Leung|
|Music by||Joel Diamond|
|Editing by||Brent Leung
|Running time||90 minutes|
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. Leung describes the film as an objective examination of the idea that HIV causes AIDS. 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. Leung has declined to discuss funding for the film except to state that funders came from "all over the world".
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." A group of scientists interviewed for the film later complained that they had been interviewed under false pretenses, and that the film promotes pseudoscience.
The film's promotion of AIDS denialism rendered it controversial and "bitterly divisive". A Denver Fox affiliate TV station described the film as poorly organized and unfocused, but presenting "a barrage of intriguing theories." Promotional material for the Raindance Film Festival described the film as raising "a number of challenging and disturbing thoughts."
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." The Wall Street Journal cited the film as part of "this season's fashion in conspiracy theories." 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."
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." AIDSTruth.org, a website created by HIV researchers to address AIDS denialism, 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. Ben Goldacre, writing in The Guardian, described House of Numbers as "a dreary and pernicious piece of Aids denialist propaganda."
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. Two interviewees, Neil Constantine and Robin Weiss, cite examples supporting the allegation that Leung misrepresented their words in a "surely intentional" manner. Brent Leung denied taking quotes out of context.
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.
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