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How to survive a plague

Directed by David France

In the dark days of 1987, America was six years into the AIDS epidemic, a crisis that was still largely being ignored both by government officials and health organizations — until the sudden emergence of the activist group ACT UP in Greenwich Village, New York, largely made up of HIV-positive participants who refused to die without a fight. Along with TAG (Treatment Action Group), and emboldened by the power of rebellion, they took on the challenges that public officials had ignored, raising awareness of the disease through a series of dramatic protests. More remarkably, they became recognized experts in virology, biology, and pharmaceutical chemistry.

Their efforts would see them seize the reins of federal policy from the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) and NIH (National Institutes of Health), force the AIDS conversation into the 1992 presidential election, and guide the way to the discovery of effective AIDS drugs that turned an HIV diagnosis from a death sentence into a chance to live long and healthy lives.

First-time director David France culls from a huge amount of never-before-seen archival footage — most of it shot by the protestors themselves (31 videographers are credited) — to create not just an historical document, but an intimate and visceral recreation of the period through the very personal stories of some of ACT UP and TAG’s leading participants. How to Survive a Plague captures both the joy and terror of those days, and the epic day-by-day battles that finally made AIDS survival possible. - Courtesy of PBS.com