DIRECTORS: Manfred Hoschek, Sigrid Smejkal
Since their inception in 1979 to combat HIV and AIDS, the infamous Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have established missions all over the world, ministering to the masses with glitter, wit and charity. As German filmmakers explore the Sisterhood in Berlin, Montevideo in Uruguay and San Francisco, we find out that Sisters everywhere hand out happiness, along with a healthy dose of tongue-lashing.
From the Life Ball in Vienna to the organization’s archives in San Francisco to queer visibility in Montevideo, each group has their own goals and methods. As one German Sister remarks, it’s easier to hand out condoms when people know you aren’t hitting on them. In Uruguay, the Sisters face homophobia and persecution from a heavily Catholic public. There, the mask becomes more than a political statement — it’s a form of protection. As the Sisters gear up for a worldwide gathering in San Francisco for the group’s 30th anniversary, they reflect on what it means to be part of the movement, both personally and for their communities.
For anyone who has ever wondered why the Sisters wear white faces (or faces at all), this documentary lifts the veil for an inside look at the organization committed to safer sex, LGBT rights and performance art. As one original Sister says, “We’re not really anti-Catholic at all. We’re just anti-guilt, anti-hate, anti-negativity.” This exuberant documentary lives up to that commitment, sparkles and all.