David France (writer)

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David France
Joy Tomchin - David France (14105448310).jpg
Joy Tomchin (l) with France (r) at the Peabody Awards
Born1959 (age 60–61)
OccupationInvestigative reporter, non-fiction author, and filmmaker.
Notable work
How to Survive a Plague (2012 film, 2016 book)
Websitewww.davidfrance.com Edit this at Wikidata

David France is an American investigative reporter, non-fiction author, and filmmaker. He is a former Newsweek senior editor, and has published in New York magazine,[1] The New Yorker,[2] The New York Times Magazine, GQ,[3] and others. France, who is gay,[4] is best known for his investigative journalism on LGBTQ topics.[4]

In June 2007, France appeared on The Colbert Report to discuss the scientific basis that homosexuality is genetic.[5] In 2017, he appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to discuss his film about gay liberation activist Marsha P. Johnson.[6]

Early career[edit]


France published his first pieces of reporting in Gay Community News in the early 1980s, and soon was assistant editor at the New York Native and contributor to the Village Voice. His founding interest in journalism was the HIV/AIDS crisis. France had been reporting on the U.S. AIDS epidemic since its early years, having moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan,[4] to New York City in June 1981,[4][7] just 2 weeks before the first newspaper report about the disease appeared in The New York Times[7] and living in the epicenter of the East Coast epidemic through its first decade,[4] losing his boyfriend of 5 years to AIDS in 1992.[4]

After a short stint at the New York Post, from which he was fired for being gay,[8] he moved to Central America to work as a war correspondent covering the region's multiple crises in the mid-80s for Religion News Service and others. He spent many years writing for women's magazines, including Glamour, where he was National Affairs Editor, before moving to Newsweek as Senior Editor in 1999 and New York Magazine as Contributing Editor in 2001.

His articles have been collected in a number of books and have won many awards. A 2007 article France wrote for GQ, Dying to Come Out: The War On Gays in Iraq, won a GLAAD Media Award.[9] He spent a year with the family of a boy who committed suicide and undertook a forensic approach in an article about it for the Ladies' Home Journal.[10] The piece, entitled "Broken Promises", which he wrote with Diane Salvatore, won a Mental Health America 'Excellence in Mental Health Journalism' award in 2008.[10]

He is the author of four non-fiction books. In 2009, he founded Public Square Films with filmmaking partner Joy A. Tomchin.

Awards and recognition[edit]

In 2019 he was awarded a MacDowell Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony and the Calderwood Journalism Fellowship for 2019, in support of long-form journalism.[11]

In June 2020, in honor of the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ Pride parade, Queerty named him among the fifty heroes “leading the nation toward equality, acceptance, and dignity for all people”.[12][13]


Our Fathers[edit]

France, who covered the Catholic sexual abuse scandal in the United States for Newsweek, turned his work into a well-reviewed and comprehensive history of the issue in the American church. "Stunning in its insight, ...France writes with compassion and intelligence," wrote John D. Thomas in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution. Writing in the New York Times, Janet Maslin said: "No matter how thoroughly this material has been presented by other reporters, the effect of this cumulative retelling is devastating."

The book was adapted by Showtime for a film by the same name, which received multiple Emmy Award nominations and one from the Writers Guild of America.

The Confession[edit]

Written with former Governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey, the book was a New York Times best seller, debuting at #3 in nonfiction hardcover sales and #1 in biography.[14] It chronicles the Governor's rise to power and the lengths to which he went to hide the fact of his gayness.

How to Survive a Plague[edit]

Published in 2016, How to Survive a Plague is considered "the definitive book on AIDS activism."[15]

A blend of scholarly history and first-hand witnessing, it is considered a sequel to (and correction of) Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On. France weaves the intimate personal narratives of the most towering figures from that time -- Mathilde Krim, Joseph Sonnabend, Larry Kramer, Peter Staley, Michael Callen, Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier—into "a riveting, galvanizing account"[16] of flawed personalities, nasty politics, human desperation, and clever resistance. He shows how the arrival of life-saving antiretrovirals in 1996 could not have happened without a scrappy band of citizen scientists pushing Big Pharma along.

It won named to numerous best-of and top-ten lists, was a New York Times 100 Notable Books for 2016,[17] and was one of the best-reviewed books of the year. "Powerful...This superbly written chronicle will stand as a towering work in its field, the best book on the pre-treatment years of the epidemic since Randy Shilts’s And The Band Played On… Most of the people to whom it bears witness are not around to read it, but millions are alive today thanks to their efforts, and this moving record will ensure their legacy does not die with them." –Sunday Times[18]

The book won the Baillie Gifford Prize,[19] the Green Carnation Prize, the Stonewall Book Award (nonfiction) from the American Library Association,[20] the Lambda Literary Award, Publishers' Triangle Best Nonfiction award, and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Book Prize. It was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence,[21] and shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.[22]

Entertainment Weekly called it one of the 10 best nonfiction books of the 2010s,[23] and Slate named it one of the 50 best of the past 25 years.[24]


How to Survive a Plague[edit]

France's documentary film How to Survive a Plague, about the early years of the U.S. AIDS epidemic, was released in 2012, four years before his eponymous book.[25] As director and producer, France made use of a wide range of archive footage from the height of the American AIDS crisis to create a feature documentary Esquire magazine called the Best Documentary of the year.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012, won numerous festival awards worldwide, and was nominated for an Academy Award,[4][26] a Directors Guild Award,[27] an Independent Spirit Award,[28] and two Emmys,[29] and it won a Peabody Award[30][31] a Gotham Award,[32] and a GLAAD award.[31] In addition, France received The John Schlesinger Award (given to a first time documentary or narrative feature filmmaker) from the Provincetown International Film Festival, the Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award from the International Documentary Association,[33] and the New York Film Critics Circle award for Best First Film,[34] the group's first time to honor a documentary filmmaker.

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson[edit]

In 2017, France released the documentary The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson, which he directed. The film portrays the life of Marsha P. Johnson, a prominent activist in the late 1960s through the early 1990s,[35][36][37] and follows the re-opened investigation into Johnson's suspicious death.[38] It was acquired by Netflix in June 2017.[39]

The film premiered in competition at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017.[40] In October 2017, trans activist Tourmaline alleged David France used her work to create The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, which debuted 6 October 2017 via Netflix. France denied the allegation and two independent investigations in Jezebel [41][42][43] and The Advocate found Gossett's/Tourmaline's allegations to be baseless.[44] The film went on to win numerous festival awards[45] and earn positive reviews—96% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.[46] In Vulture, the critic David Edelstein called the film "shattering;"[38] Time Out New York called it "essential for anyone interested in learning how to make a loud-and-proud stink."[47]

Welcome to Chechnya[edit]

France's 2020 film Welcome to Chechnya premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.[48]


  1. ^ "David France New York magazine articles". New York magazine. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  2. ^ "David France New Yorker articles". The New Yorker. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  3. ^ France, David. "David France GQ articles". GQ. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Halterman, Jim (February 21, 2013). "Filmmaker David France talks How To Survive a Plague". Edge.
  5. ^ Colbert Report interview. June 26, 2007.
  6. ^ "Seth Meyers interview". November 2, 2017.
  7. ^ a b France, David (December 1, 2016). How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS. Pan Macmillan. p. PT14. ISBN 978-1-5098-3941-4. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  8. ^ France, David (December 1, 2016). How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed AIDS. Pan Macmillan. p. PT201. ISBN 978-1-5098-3941-4. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  9. ^ "19th Annual GLAAD Media Award recipients". GLAAD. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved December 4, 2013.
  10. ^ a b "Mental Health America 2008 Media Awards Recognize Excellence in Mental Health Journalism". Mental Health America. June 6, 2008. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  12. ^ "Queerty Pride50 2020 Honorees". Queerty. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  13. ^ Reddish, David (June 15, 2020). "Meet the entertainment creators fighting the good fight this year". Queerty. Retrieved June 30, 2020.
  14. ^ "Ex-N.J. 'Gay Governor' James E. McGreevey's Book a Best Seller". Fox News. Associated Press. September 28, 2006.
  15. ^ Baker, Jeff (November 30, 2016). "'How to Survive a Plague,' by David France". San Francisco Chronicle.
  16. ^ Schwartz, Alexandra (December 8, 2016). "'New York's Necessary New AIDS Memorial,'". The New Yorker.
  17. ^ "Book Review: 100 Notable Books of 2016". The New York Times. November 23, 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  18. ^ Thring, Oliver (December 11, 2016). "Books: How to Survive a Plague: The Story of How Activists and Scientists Tamed Aids by David France". The Times.[dead link]
  19. ^ Flood, Alison (November 16, 2017). "Baillie Gifford prize goes to Aids chronicle How to Survive a Plague". The Guardian. Retrieved March 14, 2018.
  20. ^ "Stonewall Book Awards List".
  21. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence: Longlist 2017". American Library Association. Retrieved March 27, 2017.
  22. ^ "Wellcome Book Prize Shortlist". Retrieved November 26, 2018.
  23. ^ "Here are EW's top 10 nonfiction books of the decade". Entertainment Weekly. November 27, 2019. Retrieved February 16, 2020.
  24. ^ Kois, Dan; Miller, Laura (November 18, 2019). "The 50 Best Nonfiction Books of the Past 25 Years". Slate. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  25. ^ Bernstein, Jacob (December 12, 2012). "A Story of AIDS, From the Beginning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
  26. ^ "Oscar-nominated doc How to Survive a Plague to become ABC miniseries". The Hollywood Reporter. February 28, 2013.
  27. ^ "How to Survive a Plague up for Directors Guild award". BBC News Online. January 15, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  28. ^ "How to Survive a Plague". Film Independent Spirit Awards. Archived from the original on January 4, 2013. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  29. ^ "PBS leads networks in news Emmy nominations". Current. July 22, 2014. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  30. ^ "Independent Lens: How to Survive a Plague". Peabody Awards. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  31. ^ a b Townsend, Megan (April 3, 2014). "Peabody Awards honor several LGBT-inclusive films and series including Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, How to Survive a Plague and more". GLAAD. Retrieved December 28, 2016.
  32. ^ Brooks, Brian (November 27, 2012). "Moonrise Kingdom, How to Survive a Plague, Beasts win Gothams". Movieline. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  33. ^ "Jacqueline Donnet Emerging Documentary Filmmaker Award: David France". International Documentary Association. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  34. ^ "2012 Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  35. ^ Noel Murray (October 3, 2017). "The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson is more than just another true-crime documentary". The A.V. Club. The United States. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  36. ^ Ken Jaworowski (October 5, 2017). "The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson is more than just another true-crime documentary". The New York Times. New York City, New York State, The United States. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  37. ^ "'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson' review: Gay rites". NJ.com. New Jersey, The United States. October 6, 2017. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  38. ^ a b Edelstein, David (October 5, 2017). "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson Is a Shattering Documentary". Vulture. The United States. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  39. ^ Clayton Davis (June 3, 2017). "Netflix Acquires David France's 'The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson'". Awards Circuit. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
  41. ^ Weiss, Suzannah (October 8, 2017). ""The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson" Creator Accused of Stealing Work from Filmmaker Reina Gossett". Teen Vogue. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  42. ^ Marotta, Jenna (October 7, 2017). "Netflix Doc 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson': Did Director David France Steal a Filmmaker's Research?". IndieWire. Retrieved October 8, 2017.
  43. ^ "Who Owns Marsha P. Johnson's Story?". Jezebel. October 13, 2017.
  44. ^ Ennis, Dawn (January 23, 2018). "Inside the Fight for Marsha P. Johnson's Legacy". Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  45. ^ "The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson Awards". Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  46. ^ "Reviews for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson". Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  47. ^ "The 10 best movies at Tribeca Film Festival 2017".
  48. ^ Mike Fleming, Jr. "HBO Documentary Films Lands Sundance-Bound ‘Welcome To Chechnya’, About Harsh Plight Of LGBTQ Community In Russian Republic". Deadline Hollywood, December 12, 2019.

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