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

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

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.