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How to Survive a Plague

21how_span-thumbstandard This passionate documentary focuses on the grass-roots crusade in the 1980s and '90s to speed up efforts at developing treatments for the HIV virus. The film follows AIDS activists to Washington, where they challenge the government to act.
HD Available
Netflix Rating: 4.0
NYT Critics' Pick
David France’s documentary “How to Survive a Plague" is a history of the fiery force of Act Up in the life-or-death fight for drugs to treat AIDS. Read the review
Rotten Tomatoes: Fresh 100%
Critics' score: 100   Audience score: 80   Rotten Tomatoes page
Top Rotten Tomatoes Critics

A raw history, often cluttered and sometimes repetitive but, when strategies fail along with immune systems, deeply affecting. full review

Rick Groen, Globe and Mail

Presents a valuable template for how grassroots activism can temper societal prejudice and challenge governmental indifference in the face of a mysterious and remorseless killer. full review

Bruce Demara, Toronto Star

[A] powerful, messy and tremendously moving documentary ... full review

Claude Peck, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"How to Survive a Plague" captures a saddening, maddening era that seems like far too many lifetimes ago. full review

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

It can feel inchoate, dropping the viewer in the middle of events without much context, and it exacts an emotional toll. But its raw quality also makes it compelling viewing. full review

Tirdad Derakhshani, Philadelphia Inquirer

Plague isn't the history of a disease so much as the history of a movement, and a portrait of those who refused to suffer passively. full review

Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

Moving and essential. full review

Bruce Diones, New Yorker

France and his crew have sculpted years of old broadcast-news stories and home videos into a narrative that is impressionistic in its scope but coherent in its feeling. full review

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe

One of the most important documentaries in years or decades ... full review

Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

Mostly the film toggles between two emotions - the high of watching brave people go to war, and the low of seeing so many of them fall, as entire communities are destroyed. full review

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

France, drawing on a wealth of video footage from inside the organization, turns that decade of rage, despair, and tenacity into an inspiring tale of effective political action. full review

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader

A heart-wrenching portrait of one of the saddest, most heroic chapters in American history. full review

Sara Stewart, New York Post

When it's over, this documentary lingers as a testament to extraordinary human bravery. It stands as one of the most heartbreaking and suspenseful sagas of the year. full review

Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle

If the movie expresses equal measures of sadness and outrage, it is charged with the exhilarating excitement felt by soldiers on the front lines of battle. full review

Stephen Holden, New York Times

An exceptional portrait of a community in crisis and the focused fury of its response. full review

Sheri Linden, Los Angeles Times

How to Survive a Plague is thorough almost to a fault. full review

Tune in to the passionate voices in David France's brilliant documentary ... full review

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal

Should be invaluable to every frustrated movement, as both a road map and a reminder of how vital personal activism remains. full review

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News

We grow familiar with the names and faces of many of the leaders in the movement. Some look directly into the camera and say they expect to die of the disease. Some are correct. full review

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Dispensing with voiceover narration, How to Survive a Plague is instead a compilation of first-person remembrances, a time-toggling polyphony emphasizing both individual struggles against illness and collective action-the we of me. full review

Melissa Anderson, Village Voice
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