How to Survive a Plague

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How to Survive a Plague
How to Survive a Plague
Directed by David France
Produced by Dan Cogan
Written by David France
Todd Woody Richman
Tyler H. Walk
Music by Stuart Bogie
Cinematography Derek Wiesehahn
Edited by Todd Woody Richman
Tyler H. Walk
Public Square Films
Ninety Thousand Words
Distributed by Mongrel Media (Canada theatrical)
Sundance Selects (USA theatrical)
Release date(s)
  • January 22, 2012 (2012-01-22) (Sundance Film Festival)
  • September 21, 2012 (2012-09-21) (United States (limited))
Running time 109 min.
Country United States
Language English
Box office $132,055[1]

How to Survive a Plague is a 2012 American documentary film about the early years of the AIDS epidemic, and the efforts of ACT UP and TAG. It was directed by David France, a journalist who covered AIDS from its beginnings. For France it was his first film. He dedicated it to his partner, who died of AIDS-related pneumonia in 1992. The documentary was produced using more than 700 hours of archived footage which included news coverage, interviews as well as film of demonstrations, meetings and conferences taken by ACT UP members themselves. France says they knew what they were doing was historic, and that many of them would die. The film, which opened in select theatres across the United States on September 21, 2012, also includes footage of a demonstration during mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1989.[2]


People featured in the film include:


Beginning at the start of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States, the documentary follows a group of AIDS activists and founders of AIDS group ACT UP, and follows their struggle for response from the United States government and medical establishment in developing effective HIV/AIDS medications.


Critical response[edit]

Currently, the film has a rating of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an average score of 8.6/10, based on 69 reviews.[3]


How to Survive a Plague received awards for best documentary of 2012 from the Gotham Independent Film Awards and from the Boston Society of Film Critics. The Independent Spirit Awards nominated it for Best Documentary. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in the 85th Academy Awards.[4] The film also won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary. It was nominated for a Directors Guild Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.[5] Critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times named How to Survive a Plague one of the best five documentaries of 2012.[6] Fellow New York Times critic Stephen Holden called the documentary the eighth best film of 2012.[7] It also won Documentary of the Year at Attitude magazine's Attitude Awards 2013.


  1. ^ "How to Survive a Plague". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  2. ^ "How To Survive a Plague, How To Make an Uplifting Documentary About AIDS". ’’Gawker’’. Retrieved September 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ "How to Survive a Plague Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  4. ^ Bernstein, Jacob (12 December 2012). "A Story of AIDS, From the Beginning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2012. 
  5. ^ "DVD Review - How to Survive a Plague". The M Report’’. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  6. ^ Scott, A. O. (December 14, 2012). "25 Favorites From A Year When 10 Aren't Enough". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  7. ^ Holden, Stephen (December 14, 2012). "The Year of the Body Vulnerable". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 

External links[edit]