Filmed in 2012, How to Survive a Plague is a look back at the early years of the AIDS epidemic in America. Using over 700 hours of archived footage, director David France shows the actions and efforts of activist groups such as ACT UP and TAG. Seeing little response from the federal government and medical industry, activist groups aimed to draw more attention to HIV/AIDS as a disease and prevent its sufferers and victims from being left in the fringes of society.
The documentary film showcases pivotal moments in the fight against AIDS, including footage from a 1989 demonstration held during Catholic mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The film includes archived footage and interviews from politicians and activists such as former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush, New York City mayor and US Congressman Ed Koch, US Senator Jesse Helms, and TAG founders and activists Peter Staley and Mark Harrington.
The film culminates with the great progress gay-rights and AIDS awareness activists have made, illustrating how speaking up and supporting one another can turn a death sentence into a manageable health condition.
“We’re now far enough from that era that seeing it all again feels like a slap to the face in the same way that watching certain moments in the civil rights epic “Eyes on the Prize” chills your bones. This doesn’t have that series’ stately magnitude. It’s smaller and crasser, but it’s comparatively galvanic.”
— Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
“One of the best documentaries, and best films, of the year, it is required viewing for anyone with a desire for making their own world a better place, inspiring you to act up and fight back.”
— Katie Walsh, The Playlist
“ACT UP soldiers on today, as it must, given the lack of official attention to the resurgence of HIV among young American men in metropolitan areas.”
— Ella Taylor, NPR
Did You Know?
Little is known about the personal life of a very public figure, New York Mayor Ed Koch. Never married, Ed Koch first stepped into politics by winning an election to represent Greenwich Village in the New York City Council. However, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, Koch was very dismissive of the disease. Many speculate the former mayor and Congressman may have in fact lived a closeted life until his death, despite his public insistence to the contrary. Review our Gay Themed Documentaries Here