entertainment

Aids activist Ruth Coker Burks' life to be adapted into a feature length movie

The activist cared for more than a thousand gay men during the Aids epidemic in the 1980s

2020-02-18

Words: Steve Brown

Aids activist Ruth Coker Burks' life will be turned into a feature length film starring Ruth Wilson and Matt Bomer

In the 1980s, during a time when doctors and leaders of the world were refusing to help those with the virus, a then 25-year-old took it upon herself to care for those who had been shunned and disowned by the own families during their last days.

After a chance meeting with a gay man rejected by his family and dying of Aids in hospital, Ruth spent years meeting Aids patients, providing care and medicines for those who need it and eventually burying more than 43 victims of the virus.

Sometimes dubbed the 'Cemetary Angel', Ruth became a beacon of hope in these mens' darkest of hours, laying many of them to rest in her own family burial plot.

And now, two-time Tony Award-nominee Michael Arden is set to helm the new film The Book of Ruth, which is based on the true story of the devout Christian who became a champion for more than a thousand people during the Aids epidemic in the 1980s.

Rebecca Pollock and Kas Graham have written the screenplay and according to Deadline, Wilson and Bomer are attached to star.

“It’s a great honor and privilege to tell this important story about the responsibility one human has to another, especially in a time of crisis,” Arden said.

“As a gay man, I feel that Ruth’s story of empathy in the face of great prejudice and adversary is one so needed in our modern time.”

“It is vital for us to remember that we lost an entire generation to the AIDS epidemic and that so many people, including Ruth, sacrificed their own comfort, station and livelihood to help those in need during this plague.”

Producers Scott LaStaiti, Dominic Tighe and Thomas Daley said: “This female-led story tells us that out of the deepest darkness can come the brightest light and the work of Ruth Coker Burks is a constant reminder of all that is best about humanity.”

Last year, Ruth was awarded the Attitude Hero Award for her activism and care during the epidemic and she recalled meeting her first Aids patient, Jimmy, who had been abandoned by his family.

It was 1984 and a group of nurses at the University of Arkansas’s Medical Center were drawing straws to determine who would have to go into his hospital room.

Speaking exclusively to Attitude, she said: "It makes me uncomfortable because I'm not a hero. I just what everybody should have done, but didn't.

"I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The young man’s food trays were lined up on the floor because no one would take them into him, and he was too weak to go out and get them for himself. I couldn’t take it any more, so I snuck into his room,” Ruth – who was 25 at the time – recalls.

“Bless his heart, he was so frail. You couldn’t tell him from the bed, he was so thin. He probably weighed less than 75lbs,” she continues.

“I stayed with him for 13 hours until he took his last breath. I thought Jimmy was going to be my only patient, that that was it, I’d done my duty.”

Listen to Ruth accept the Attitude Hero Award below: