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Rose McGowan's Short Film Ruth Highlights the Woman Who Cared For Abandoned AIDS Victims

Rose McGowan's Short Film Ruth Highlights the Woman Who Cared For Abandoned AIDS Victims

Ruth Coker Burks, Rose McGowan
Zirkova/Rose McGowan

Written and directed by McGowan, Ruth tells the story of a woman who cared when no one else did.

It's been two decades since Ruth Coker Burks was shouldered into obsolescence by improved HIV drugs. Before the advent of strong anti-virals she spent 10 years caring for hundreds of gay men dying of AIDS who had been rejected and abandoned by their biological families.

Now, some 30 years after Burks began helping these men and becoming one of the last people that ever cared for them in their lives, she's being nudged more and more into the spotlight. Last winter, OUT published a story about Burks and the work she did. Now, Burks' story is being taken one step further, with the beginnings being transformed into a short film written and directed by Rose McGowan.

Related | Meet the Woman Who Cared for Hundreds of Abandoned Gay Men Dying of AIDS

"I would watch these nurses draw straws to see who would go in and check on him," Burks told OUT, remembering hospital staff being afraid to be in the same room as a patient with AIDS, knowns as GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) in the '80s. That exact moment is illustrated in the film, right before Burks (Shay Astar) stares at the camera realizing that, though these men had been forgotten by their families, she could still be there for them.

"I think she's been forgotten by time," McGowan toldBuzzFeed News in an interview. "Ruth Coker Burks is a national hero. I hope she gets seen and treated that way in the future. I think it's time for strong women in history to rise up and be counted. And I'll do anything I can to help that along."

The short film, simply titled Ruth, is part of a series of short films sponsored by vodka company Zirkova for their We Are One + Together nonprofit organization. Though McGowan didn't know about Burks or her story when approached by the company, after doing her research she became "fascinated and captivated," turning a script rewrite around overnight. Watch the short film below, and read OUT's profile on Burks, here.

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