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A film by David France

Runtime: 110 minutes (includes 85 minute version)

Closed Captioning included


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About this film

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. How To Survive A Plague is the story of how activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition.

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. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.

Blisteringly powerful, How To Survive A Plague transports us back to a vital time of unbridled death, political indifference, and staggering resilience and constructs a commanding archetype for activism today.





"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


A top 20 film of 2012 according to:

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, New York Magazine, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Slate, PBS: POV, NY Film Critics Circle, Boston Society of Film Critics, Gotham Awards, Rotten Tomatoes, Village Voice, Time Out New York, Time Out Chicago, Blade, Atlantic Monthly, Gay City News, Gawker, Village Voice, MSN Entertainment, Indie Wire Critics Poll, U-T San Diego. 


For all Canadian inquiries, please contact:

Caroline Habib

Mongrel Media

416 516 9775 x221

[email protected]

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