How to Survive a Plague
Documenting the early days of the 1980’s AIDS epidemic, there’s no question as to why David France’s polarizing new release is already generating Oscar buzz and has a near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes. Both powerful and tragic, How to Survive a Plague perfectly captures the desperation and terror faced by grassroots activists in the face of a mysterious new killer. Following the efforts of ACT UP and TAG (medical activist groups who fought ruthlessly to give us the medical treatments we have today) we are shown the true struggle behind the disease.
Journalist-turned-director David France approaches the once taboo subject of the AIDS epidemic brilliantly – we are instantly confronted with the brutal truth by heartbreaking images showing the worst of humanity. No subtlety is employed here, forcing the viewer to face the harsh realities of the era that are so often brushed under the carpet decades later.
With a wealth of archive footage of news coverage, demonstrations and interviews, it’s hard to watch Plague and not feel like you’re part of something important. The clashing of old and new footage in film can often fail, but here it works beautifully – the viewers are given a true sense of change from the accomplishments of our heroes.
However, one issue with the movie is the lack of context. France assumes that the viewer already has a wealth of knowledge pertaining to this period and drops them straight into an emotional battlefield without any explanation. Because of this, France is able to spin points to his own advantage and we are never allowed to form an opinion of our own. The film also has a problem with consistency, often feeling cluttered and overflowing with some points repeated unnecessarily.
Despite sometimes feeling one-sided, Plague is an emotional rollercoaster that will bring out the activist in us all. In a time of political apathy, this film is exactly what we need to stir up a sense of rebellion in today’s society. With beautiful cinematography and heart wrenching footage, How to Survive a Plague is a film that not only should be seen, but must.
How to Survive a Plague is released nationwide on 8th November 2013.
Watch the trailer for How to Survive a Plague here: