HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (David France, 2012)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center: Francesca Beale Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.
Through Thursday, January 24
Contemporary activists stand to learn a lot from the gripping documentary How to Survive a Plague. For his directorial debut, longtime journalist David France, one of the first reporters to cover the AIDS crisis that began in the early 1980s, scoured through more than seven hundred hours of mostly never-before-seen archival footage and home movies of protests, meetings, public actions, and other elements of the concerted effort to get politicians and the pharmaceutical industry to recognize the growing health epidemic and do something as the death toll quickly rose into the millions. Focusing on radical groups ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group), France follows such activist leaders as Peter Staley, Mark Harrington, Larry Kramer, Bob Rafsky, and Dr. Iris Long as they attack the policies of President George H. W. Bush, famously heckle presidential candidate Bill Clinton, and battle to get drug companies to create affordable, effective AIDS medicine, all while continuing to bury loved ones in both public and private ceremonies. France includes new interviews with many key activists who reveal surprising details about the movement, providing a sort of fight-the-power primer about how to get things done. The film also shines a light on lesser-known heroes, several filled with anger and rage, others much calmer, who fought through tremendous adversity to make a difference and ultimately save millions of lives. How to Survive a Plague is screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center through January 24, celebrating its Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature.