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|
|Edited by||Todd Woody Richman
Tyler H. Walk
|Distributed by||Mongrel Media (Canada theatrical)
Sundance Selects (USA theatrical)
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 Doug Gould, 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.
People featured in the film include:
- Bill Bahlman
- David Barr
- Gregg Bordowitz
- George H. W. Bush (archive footage)
- Bill Clinton (archive footage)
- Spencer Cox
- Jim Eigo
- Susan Ellenberg
- Anthony S. Fauci
- Mark Harrington
- Jesse Helms (archive footage)
- Garance Franke-Ruta
- Larry Kramer
- Mathilde Krim
- Ed Koch
- Iris Long
- Ray Navarro
- Ann Northrop
- Bob Rafsky
- Peter Staley
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. Activists took it upon themselves to get the FDA to approve drugs that could slow down or even halt the AIDS virus and demanded that the trials that would usually take 7–10 years to test be shortened and put on the market. It also documents the underground market for HIV drugs. Many people relied on drugs imported from other countries that could potentially slow down the HIV virus, despite the medications not being FDA approved. At the time, the only drug available to slow the progression of HIV was AZT which was in many cases toxic to HIV infected people, and in some cases caused blindness. The cost of AZT was about $10,000 a year in the late 1980s, which many HIV activists considered too expensive. ACT UP's efforts led to the creation of the International Aids Conference. DDI-an alternative medication to AZT, that did not cause blindness was released by the FDA despite not going through a full length safety trial.
HIV activists also protested the immigration policies banning HIV positive people from immigrating to the United States as being discriminatory and homophobic. When existing drugs proved ineffective as treatment for HIV, TAG lobbied for more research into the HIV virus. In 1996 Protease inhibitors were released as a combination of drugs that lowered the HIV viral load in patients more than any drug had before. It was considered a breakthrough in HIV and AIDS research and continues to be used as a treatment for HIV and AIDS.
The documentary included interviews with HIV activists, physicians and members of underground organizations as well as clips of the protests, meetings and news coverage taking place during the 1980s and 1990s.
A book 'edition', with the same title, was published by Knopf in November 2016. ISBN 978-0771047510
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. The film also won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary and a Peabody Award. It was nominated for a Directors Guild Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times named How to Survive a Plague one of the best five documentaries of 2012. Fellow New York Times critic Stephen Holden called the documentary the eighth best film of 2012. It also won Documentary of the Year at Attitude magazine's Attitude Awards 2013.
- United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, a 2012 documentary
- Grassroots Activism
- International Aids Society
- "How to Survive a Plague". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- "How To Survive a Plague, How To Make an Uplifting Documentary About AIDS". ’’Gawker’’. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
- "How to Survive a Plague Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- Bernstein, Jacob (12 December 2012). "A Story of AIDS, From the Beginning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 13, 2012.
- 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
- "DVD Review - How to Survive a Plague". The M Report’’. Retrieved June 4, 2013.
- Scott, A. O. (December 14, 2012). "25 Favorites From A Year When 10 Aren't Enough". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
- Holden, Stephen (December 14, 2012). "The Year of the Body Vulnerable". The New York Times. Retrieved December 14, 2012.