First-time filmmaker David France — an openly gay writer best known for his investigative journalism on LGBT topics — delivers the best documentary of 2012 with How to Survive a Plague, a truly powerful story of activism and innovation amidst the AIDS epidemic of the late ’80s and early ’90s. The film centres on the NYC gay activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), who fearlessly and tirelessly fought for effective AIDS treatments while the Reagan and Bush administrations — not to mention the pharmaceutical companies — did their best to ignore the deadly disease. You may think you know this story, but France’s impressively constructed, exhaustively researched and justifiably angry film is simply revelatory, packed with eye-opening, never-before-seen archival footage of key activists — including Peter Staley, Bob Rafsky and Larry Kramer — and fascinating, eloquent present day interviews, as well as several animated sequences that efficiently illustrate the scientific details. How to Survive a Plague is a vital, essential testament to the courage and endurance of these activists (Occupy members could stand to learn a thing or two from their efficacy), and it is arguably the most comprehensive, clear and concise overview of the AIDS story yet — a remarkable feat for a directorial debut — stirring up so much emotion along the way that you will come out of it drained, rewarded and inspired.
How to Survive a Plague is currently screening at the Documentary Edge Festival. For more information visit their website, and see the trailer below.