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HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE provides a fascinating inside look at AIDS activists fighting the power

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (David France, 2012)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Monday, February 20, $15, 7:30

With protests continuing around the country, and the world, against Donald Trump and his administration, IFC Center is honoring Presidents Day with the special evening “Surviving and Resisting: A Presidents Day Event.” The centerpiece is a screening of the gripping 2012 Oscar-nominated 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 7:30 on February 20, along with three new short documentaries, Jem Cohen’s Birth of a Nation and two works from Laura Poitras’s Field of Vision online platform, Alex Winter’s Trump’s Lobby and Josh Begley’s Best of Luck with the Wall, followed by a Q&A and book signing with France, Cohen (Museum Hours, Instrument), and journalist, documentarian, and visual artist Poitras (Citizenfour, “Astro Noise”). It should be quite a night as people gather to discuss how to survive the plague that has infected the White House.

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