How to Survive a Plague

"Essential"

How to Survive a Plague Review


Nominated for the Oscar, this documentary is one of the most involving and moving films you'll see all year. At its core this is a movie about how a decent society should behave, even to the point of helping people who hurt themselves. Smokers, overeaters or bad drivers get assistance, but for a period in the 1980s, America's government, global businesses and the Catholic church turned their backs on people diagnosed with Aids, condemning them to a terrible death. But this isn't a gloomy movie: as the title suggests it explores those who made it through what they felt was a war.

After six devastating years of Aids in America, there was virtually no way anyone could get treatment, which meant that contracting HIV was a death sentence, and homosexuals were ruthlessly persecuted. Finally in 1987 a group of New Yorkers said enough is enough, forming Act Up as a peaceful protest group that forcefully demanded an end to discrimination and homophobia. They also pushed the pharmaceutical companies and the government to approve more affordable, more effective treatments.

The film is compiled from first-hand interviews with men and women who experienced these events, as well as an astonishing range of archive footage that conveys the wrenching anger, fear and resilience of a group of people who believed they should be treated with dignity rather than ignored or banished. And filmmaker France assembles this into a driving narrative that grabs hold of us and never lets go, focussing on the people and their personal experiences, while letting the political and medical issues linger in the background.

This is a very clever approach to such a big topic, and there's plenty of humour to balance the wrenching emotions. The film never presents these people as saints, since we see the various factions, disagreements and mistakes they made. But the way they doggedly held the course in the face of death makes them true heroes. And when we see them at the time, talking about how they doubt they'll survive long enough for treatment to become available, it gives us a jolt of inspiration.



How to Survive a Plague

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th November 2013

Box Office USA: $0.1M

Distributed by: Sundance Selects

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 99%
Fresh: 69 Rotten: 1

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: David France

Producer: David France, Howard Gertle

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.