HOUSE OF NUMBERS documentarian Brent Leung describes himself as part of the "AIDS generation"—the generation born in the 1980s that grew up with the AIDS public health emergency. As such, the baby-faced Canadian's disingenuous filmmaking style at first appears like a legitimate challenge to accepted wisdom: He's just asking questions! Questions like, "Does HIV really cause AIDS?" and "Do AIDS drugs do more harm than good?" and "What if poverty is the biggest contributing factor to AIDS rates in Africa?" and "What is AIDS, anyway? Is it a disease? A collection of symptoms? Does it even, really, exist at all?"
For answers to these questions, Leung turns to interviews with doctors, Nobel laureates, AIDS patients, and activists. And while the answers he gets do reveal disagreements within the scientific community, Leung's sound bite-happy editing job should give pause to anyone interested in verifying the science behind his claims. And there's more: After House of Numbers was completed, 18 of the scientists interviewed in the film released a joint statement denouncing Leung's conclusions. "House of Numbers is an inaccurate portrayal of the truth about HIV and AIDS," they wrote. "Mr. Leung persuaded us to take part in it by acting deceitfully and unethically. None of us would have agreed to be interviewed for the film had we known it would promote the AIDS denialist agenda, and include members of that small clique as participants of supposedly equivalent credibility."
Whether he's suggesting that amyl nitrate use was responsible for the prevalence of HIV infections in gay men in the '80s, or implying that current HIV testing science is inconclusive, Leung is broaching subjects that simply can't be sufficiently explored in 90 minutes. Further, in seeking to topple conventional wisdom about the treatment of HIV/AIDS, he comes close to advocating potentially dangerous conclusions about how the disease is transmitted and how it should be best treated.