How to Survive a Plague

( USA / 2012 )
Faced with their own mortality, an improbable group of mostly HIV-positive young men and women broke the mold as radical warriors taking on Washington and the medical establishment. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. How To Survive A Plague is the story of how activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.
Formats: Digital Copy, DVD
Running Time: 110 min.
Theme: Activism, American History, Conflicts, Education, Health, History, Human Rights, LGBT see all »
Language(s): English
Director(s): David France
Producer(s): Howard Gertler
Available regions: United States, United see all »
How to Survive a Plague


  • Press Kit
  • "One of the 25 Best Films of The Year"
    A.O. Scott, NYTimes
  • "Riveting...moving and essential."
    Bruce Diones, The New Yorker
  • "A model for the here and now of how social change occurs."
    Frank Bruni, NYTimes
  • "One of the Top 10 Movies of the Year"
    David Edelstein, New York Magazine
  • "...Quickens the pulse like a thriller and rouses passions as well as any drama."
    Entertainment Weekly
  • "Words like 'important' and 'inspiring' tend too often to be meaninglessly attached to non-fiction filmmaking, but in the case of David France's compelling snapshot of a revolutionary period in AIDS treatment, they are amply justified... An epic celebration of heroism and tenacity, and less directly, a useful template for any fledgling activist movement, demonstrating the effectiveness of inside/outside strategy."
    David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter
  • "...Former Newsweek writer David France artfully recounts the history of the activist group 'ACT UP' -- whose iconic logo was SILENCE=DEATH -- in his masterly film HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE."
    David Ansen, Newsweek
  • "Even if you lived through this era, went to protests, wept over the AIDS quilt and believed yourself aware, director David France's assured, seamless directorial debut, rich with archival footage, will teach you something about courage, dedication and the power of well-directed anger."
    Mary Pols, Time Magazine
  • "The currents of rage, fear, fiery determination and finally triumph that crackle through David France's inspiring documentary, HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, lend this history of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power a scorching electrical charge."
    Stephen Holden, NYTimes
  • "I sat down to watch HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, a new documentary about the history of the AIDS epidemic, expecting to cry, and cry I did...I expected to be angry. Here, too, I wasn't disappointed. What I didn't expect was how much hope I would feel. How much comfort. While the movie vividly chronicles the wages of bigotry and neglect, it even more vividly chronicles how much society can budge when the people exhorting it to are united and determined and smart and right. The fight in us eclipses the sloth and surrender, and the good really does outweigh the bad. That's a takeaway of HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE and that's a takeaway of the AIDS crisis as well."
    Frank Bruni, NYTimes
  • "Rigorous, impassioned, and powerful-as-hell."
    Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
  • "As this stirring, scrupulous doc reveals, the members of ACT UP fused the fervor of revolutionaries, the tenacity of trial lawyers, and the rage of the dispossessed to change the very shape of the epidemic. In doing so, they found hope where there had been only death..."
    Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
  • "What saved the day was the stubborn persistence of its members, together with the scientific breakthroughs that led to protease inhibitors and combination therapies. Those new tools restored many near-corpses to life and cut the number of AIDS-related deaths in New York by a staggering 50 percent...Occupy movements, take note."
    Ella Taylor, NPR
  • "One of the ten best movies of 2012... If its essence could be bottled, David France's fierce, heartbreaking documentary about the very early days of AIDS activism could serve as a tonic for demoralized political organizers, a bracing reminder that change is possible when a group of committed people come together to fight injustice, indifference, and prejudice...don't miss this cathartic, inspiring film."
    Dana Stevens, Slate

awards & accolades

  • Boston Independent Film Festival - Audience Award
  • Academy Awards - 2012 Nominee, Best Documentary Feature

Festival participation

  • Sundance Film Festival
  • Boston Independent Film Festival
  • Full Frame Documentary Film Festival
  • Hamptons International Film Festival
  • San Francisco International Film Festival
  • Traverse City Film Festival
  • True/False Film Fest
  • Academy Awards

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Additional Info

Production Company:
Distribution Company: ro*co films

How to Survive a Plague

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