How to survive a plague (2012)

by: Lorena Sander

October 10, 2012

AIDS

Considering this documentary’s title, the reveal in its last 10 minutes should come as less of a shock. How to Survive a Plague, masterfully directed by journalist-come-filmmaker David France, is a deeply affecting piece of storytelling. The film tells the story and illustrates the tactics of two interrelated groups: ACT UP and the Treatment Action Group (TAG), both based in New York City. How To Survive A Plague, using a trove of archival, amateur-shot footage shows scenes from a dystopian past that is painfully recent: a disproportionally affected gay community dying of neglect; homophobic and ignorant moral leaders and public servants; patients being denied their dignity, even in death; drug companies that saw the scientific target first, profits second, and people a very distant third. But it also tells the story of how people react to what goes on around them, and how they can use what they know to prolong their own lives as well as demand respect and elicit compassion from others.

AIDS

The documentary does a remarkable job of showing its audience what was going on around the edges of major events – the 1991 March on Washington and the AIDS memorial quilt; the Bush/Clinton race; as well as the infighting that led to their splintering once confrontation gave way to insider access. Long before there were red ribbons, there was courage and anger. Humanity can, and must, be at the heart of scientific inquiry. Society has changed, but these were victories torn from a lot of despair and pain. There is a lot of heartbreak in this film, but there are also surprising bouts of humor and wit. The truth, it seems to be saying, can be learned in many ways.

To LEARN, FIGHT, LOVE- Please visit the HTSAP site here.

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