How to Survive a Plague - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

How to Survive a Plague Reviews

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March 7, 2014
Really interesting and informative. Amazing how quickly so much of this has been forgotten.
February 11, 2014
This looks genuinely hopeful.
Super Reviewer
February 10, 2014
An excellent documentary that effectively conveyed the desperation, fear and power of the gay community during the height of the AIDS epidemic. Really well done.
February 6, 2014
Need proof people can get together and change things for good? Watch this....
January 2, 2014
How To Survive a Plague is another example of a documentary competently made, but desperately lacking fresh ideas. When, in the last five minutes, cured AIDS survivors speak about the feeling of not knowing what to do with the years they thought they'd never have, I found myself thinking: where's that movie!? That is an idea I'd have liked to see explored, but sadly, this film's only ambition is to piece together the history of the activist coalition ACT UP, and though it does so effectively, it left me wanting something more meaningful.
December 31, 2013
One of the best documentaries I have ever seen, with lots of archival and contemporary footage. It's a powerful subject also: how in the early days of the AIDS crisis the US government did hardly anything to find treatments, so young activists took matters into their own hands.
½ December 27, 2013
Decent little documentary. Well made. They had a lot of great footage to work with. Very well edited. It was interesting and I learned a lot of about the AIDS coalitions of the early 90s/late 80s. Really nothing wrong with it, except maybe it was too long. But in terms of information, it needed to be that length. But cinematic value, it hurt it. But Check it out if you are a fan of well made documentaries. solid concept solid execution.
½ December 25, 2013
A movie that should be discussed not reviewed.
½ December 5, 2013
Definitely a great documentary, informative, moving, inspiring... I had to hold back the tears in a lot of scenes but it is definitely a must-see.
Coupled with "We were here" it gives a broad wiev of what was happening in those times.
½ December 3, 2013
Rough, brave and real. Loved it.
December 2, 2013
While the subject matter is important, the documentary itself jumped around way too much.
November 24, 2013
Watching this film is an undeniably bitter-sweet experience and you cannot help but feel the highs and, more so, the lows with the victims. It's masterful use of archive footage ensures that the audience is dragged back to that time to witness the achievements of human will and the damage caused by prejudice, tradition and inaction. A truly moving and important piece of cinema.
November 18, 2013
A devastatingly honest, yet beautiful portrayal of the activists struggling to combat the AIDS epidemic. One minute I was crying, the next I was laughing. I personally feel that that is the epitome of success when is come to documentary film making. How To Survive A Plague could quite possibly be one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. It is devastating and brilliant ad well as inspiring and hopeful.
½ November 16, 2013
AIDS was a plague for the gay community. When you are infected with a plague, you become ostracized, victimized, and isolated by the general populous as they try to quarantine it. There aren't too many positive stories about AIDS victims, but How to Survive a Plague is about as optimistic about the future of AIDS victims as I have ever seen. More than that, it is a well crafted and edited documentary that contains some mystery, some humor, and tons of hope for anyone who wants to stand up for what they believe in.

How to Survive a Plague is about the fight to get drugs on the market more quickly as mass casualties turned AIDS into a pandemic from 1987 to 1996. The film focuses on the efforts of an underground NY group called ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), which contained many homosexuals, but also some activists and doctors supporting their fight. Told mostly in footage they themselves took, we get to see their effective use of the media as they hold several nonviolent protests or debate issues with important players in the AIDS game. We see how some members of the group become highly educated on their disease and create TAG (treatment action group) that partners with the FDA doctors to research a cure. As TAG becomes closer with the FDA, ACT UP starts to mistrust the group since they are far away from the front lines. Along with the internal struggles and FDA fight, we get other fights from George Bush, Bill Clinton, Jesse Helms, Ed Koch, St. Patrick's Church, and other people who feel the need to comment on the "behavior" of the community.

Where did they store all this footage? ACT UP was well ahead of its time recording all of its doings, inside and out, on camera. Like Ghandi and King before them, ACT UP used nonviolent and pointed protests which they filmed themselves alongside the media, thus controlling how their message got across. In addition, we learn just how well verse the group was in learning about the various cures that became available. Like any good documentary, the end goal grows from a simple search for an AIDS treatment into a study of how to band together to accomplish a political goal. Using knowledge, publicity, and education as the backbone, a two-pronged attack with boots on the ground and using institutions already in place succeeded in finding a successful treatment for AIDS. How To Survive A Plague is wonderful at showing the evolving struggles of accomplishing a goal through government/political means.

What elevates How to Survive a Plague over a normal documentary is the various storytelling methods that keep the movie consistently interesting. For the mystery lover, the movie keeps hidden who dies and who lives among the principals until the end. For the dramatics, the protests carry lots of thrills and leave you on the edge of your seat plus the potential ACT UP schism becomes a very terrifying possibility midway though. For the comedian, there is a very humorous use of condoms and a house. Credit director David France for successfully editing the story to fit into a very linear narrative, using the subplots to build upon one another until the AIDS treatment is discovered.

Mark Harrington. Peter Staley. Bob Rafsky. Ann Northrup. These names deserve to be remembered alongside some of the other great social activists like Martin Luther King Jr. or Jane Addams. Their ceaseless effort and pragmatic approach is on display in How to Survive a Plague, a wonderful documentary successfully weaving together numerous topics like gay rights, the AIDS epidemic, the political process, the FDA, and religion. I hope one day down the line that these brave pioneers get some sort of holiday-type recognition for the changes and results they achieved.
½ November 12, 2013
Riveting doc that teaches a lot of oral history without feeling like you are learning!
November 7, 2013
David France's passionate documentary covers the era of aids-related mass death with care and looks at this activist effort with pride.
½ November 5, 2013
Upsetting and infuriating documentary about how a marginalised society had to fight back against a disease - and a government - that was attempting to obliterate them.
November 5, 2013
Best documentary i've ever seen.
October 30, 2013
I don't know how I missed this in theatres but this is one of the best docs I've seen in years.
October 16, 2013
Very inspiring documentary on how a few people can organize a movement and change the world and save lives.
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