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How to Survive a Plague


Gripping, Thrilling. A stunning document of a period.

— Marshall Fine, The Huffington Post


— David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter

Like the very best documentaries about political movements, HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE makes you feel humble, and at the same time, extraordinarily proud.

— Mark Warren, Esquire

A MASTERPIECE. Incredible. I was spiritually overcome by it. A really, really beautiful piece of work.

— Stuart Klawans, The Nation


— Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

EXTRAORDINARY, REMARKABLE… one of the most important documentaries in years or decades.

— David Edelstein, New York Magazine

RIVETING...MOVING AND ESSENTIAL. Brings home the genuine heroics of many of the activists.

— Andrew O’Hehir, Salon

*****!”(highest rating) DEVASTATING.

— Bruce Diones, The New Yorker

AN IMMENSELY POWERFUL DOCUMENTARY. Benefits both from the passion of its subjects and the plethora of archival footage utilized.

— Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York

An essential document of queer history.

— A.O. Scott, The New York Times

MAGNIFICENT. An electrifying, heart-wrenching tale.

— Melissa Anderson, Village Voice

Exceptional. The film succeeds not just as a vivid chronicle of recent history but as a primer in grassroots activism.

— Chuck Wilson, LA Weekly

****! Astonishing. It’s hard to overstate how ingenious France’s formal choices are. The material has been shaped in an artful manner that devastates, rouses, and shames. When France cuts to some of the TAG men in the sparingly used studio interviews, you realize you’re not simply looking at activists, you’re beholding war heroes.

— Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times

*****!”(Highest Rating) A testament to extraordinary human bravery. It stands as one of the most heartbreaking and suspenseful sagas of the year.

— Wesley Morris, The Boston Globe

The first documentary that I have seen that does justice to this story of a civil rights movement rising from the ashes of our dead.” If you want to understand the gay civil rights movement in the last twenty years, you need to see this film.

— Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

Remarkable... 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. The film was clearly a monumental research project, culling material from 700 hours of video. France’s reporting skills are impeccable. But in his first documentary, he also shows a firm grasp of narrative, giving this decade-long chronicle a driving, fluid through-line. 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… Packed with fascinating interviews and stirring footage from the trenches, the film deftly shapes its information stream into a powerful drama… France’s film is a sequel of sorts to seminal AIDS works like Larry Kramer’s ‘The Normal Heart’ and Randy Shilts’ ‘And the Band Played On.

— Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Beast

Presented by Sundance Selects | United States | Sep 12th, 2012 | 110 MINS | UR

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the story of the brave young men and women who successfully reversed the tide of an epidemic, demanded the attention of a fearful nation and stopped AIDS from becoming a death sentence. This improbable group of activists bucked oppression and, with no scientific training, infiltrated government agencies and the pharmaceutical industry, helping to identify promising new medication and treatments and move them through trials and into drugstores in record time. In the process, they saved their own lives and ended the darkest days of a veritable plague, while virtually emptying AIDS wards in American hospitals in the process. The powerful story of their fight is a classic tale of empowerment and activism that has since inspired movements for change in everything from breast cancer research to Occupy Wall Street. Their story stands as a powerful inspiration to future generations, a road map, and a call to arms. This is how you change the world.


  • David France


  • Howard Gertler
  • David France
  • Joy Tomchin
  • Dan Cogan