From the Video Vault: No Sad Songs (1985)

No Sad Songs (1985) – 60 minutes, colour, english
by Nik Sheehan

The oral history transcripts produced by our project primarily focus on the AIDS activist years of the late 1980s and 1990s when it became clear that HIV/AIDS was not just a medical, but political crisis. However, the early years of the AIDS crisis provide context for the emergence of activist responses to the stigma, medical neglect, government ineptitude, and overt homophobia that marked the early 1980s. Nik Sheehan’s No Sad Songs is groundbreaking in that it provides an early look at AIDS crisis in Canada from within directly affected communities.

The documentary was co-produced by the AIDS Committee of Toronto who had obtained a $20,000 grant for making an educational video. As noted by Tom Waugh, No Sad Songs is the first AIDS documentary in Canada and set the stage for a cascade of AIDS activist media for the next decade. Importantly, the production of this documentary modelled the artist-community organization partnership that would be emulated in many HIV/AIDS alternative media projects, most notably the public access cable series Toronto: Living With AIDS (1990-1991). The video premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 1985.

The full video is available for streaming from HotDocs here.

For more on No Sad Songs check out Matt Hays’ article in POV Magazine, Doc Classics: No Sad Songs.


AIDS Activist History Project Workshop at Pervers/Cité 2017

L’intervention dans la cérémonie d’ouverture du congrès international sur le sida à Montréal par des militants de AIDS ACTION NOW! (Toronto), ACT UP (New York) et Réaction SIDA (Montreal).

The AIDS Activist History Project (AAHP) is teaming up with the Archives Gaies du Quebec (AGQ) to offer a two-hour workshop during the 2017 edition of Pervers/cité. This hands-on workshop will teach participants how to efficiently use the digital archives that AAHP has been assembling from across Canada, and Montreal in particular. Participants will also have the opportunity to help us create indexes for Montreal oral history transcripts as well as help us digitize and upload Montreal-based AIDS activist ephemera housed at AGQ to our online archive. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop, but having one is not necessary to one’s participation. Workshop space is limited to 12 participants so please RSVP in advance by emailing the organizers directly at This workshop will primarily be in English.  You can check out the facebook event page for more details here!

The full Pervers/Cité 2017 schedule can be seen online.

Le AIDS Activist History Project (AAHP) en collaboration avec les Archives Gaies du Québec (AGQ) offriront un atelier de deux heure pendant l’édition de Pervers/cité de 2017. Cet atelier pratique montrera aux participants comment utiliser efficacement les archives numériques que l’AAHP a rassemblées de partout au Canada et de Montréal en particulier. Les participants auront également l’occasion de nous aider à créer des index pour les transcriptions de l’histoire orale de Montréal et nous aider à numériser et télécharger des éphémères militantes du sida de Montréal à l’AGQ dans nos archives en ligne. Les participants sont encouragés à apporter un laptop, mais ce n’est pas nécessaire pour participer. L’espace de l’atelier est limité à 12 personnes, s’il vous plaît inscrivez vous en avance avec les organisateurs directement par courriel à Cet atelier sera en anglais principalement.