As documentaries go, Brent Leung's "House of Numbers" is not especially well-organized or focused. It plays as if the producer-director decided -- and rightly so -- that it was time for a "state of HIV/AIDS" update, hopped the globe to interview researchers, physicians, journalists and other experts (as well as several of the disease's victims), and then figured out what his film would really be about. No matter, Leung manages to present a barrage of intriguing theories debunking our generally accepted beliefs and misperceptions about how HIV/AIDS is acquired, tested, diagnosed, defined and treated. It's a vital yet thorny approach whose inconclusiveness is bound to sadden or infuriate anyone who's lost a loved one to AIDS.
Leung serves as the movie's on-camera narrator and conscience, but, best efforts aside, the filmmaker's lack of screen presence undercuts the energy provided by his impressive range of interviewees, whose contradictory positions on HIV/AIDS become the project's raison d'etre. There's no denying, however, the value of exploring such game-changing topics as how HIV-infection numbers are cooked for monetary and political gain; how the effects of global poverty may have led to so many AIDS-related deaths; how such widely used AIDS drugs as AZT have, themselves, often proved fatal; and whether HIV really exists.