There are few films that have the ability to shake someone to their core with how brutally truthful they are. How to Survive a Plague is one of those movies.
The millennial generation, for the most part, has had it much easier when it comes to the freedoms that we have in the world today. We can’t get fired for our sexuality, we can legally get married and can be our natural selves in many different public situations without fear of being arrested or harshly criticized.
Some of us forget or are ignorant to the fact that the generations before us had to endure a ton of s**t in order for us to have some of these freedoms. This is where How to Survive a Plague comes in.
The 2012 documentary chronicles the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the efforts made by ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group). These groups were beyond furious at the fact that both the Reagan and Bush administration largely ignored the death toll that was continually rising in the 80’s and early 90’s, not to mention the fact that the medications that were out there at the time did little to prolong the lives of people living with the condition.
The film included a mixture of archived news clips, raw and personal footage from many of the ACT UP/TAG members, demonstrations in several different cities including one of them protesting in front of the FDA and subsequently getting arrested and so much more. A young Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has been one of the biggest faces during the COVID-19 pandemic this year, also appears as well as the late & great playwright Larry Kramer.
How to Survive a Plague does an effortless job at tugging on your heartstrings from beginning to end. Little things like them showing the growing amount of people dying of AIDS as the film progresses is nothing short of jarring to witness.
You also get to know key people and their backstories, like political activist and influential member of ACT UP Peter Staley, that humanizes them in a way we’ve never really seen before. One person’s story that was no doubt incredible to witness was Bob Rafsky, who had a memorable confrontation with then presidential candidate Bill Clinton about HIV/AIDS that helped it eventually become a major campaign issue.
The demonstrations in the Oscar nominated movie resonate with the world we are living in today. The passion and intensity seen with the people who marched, protested and went above and beyond to have their voices heard are very similar to the ones who are doing the same for black and trans rights in the epic battle for worldwide equality for all.
It is a piece of cinema that is worth watching for so many reasons that go beyond what is written above. How to Survive a Plague is available for streaming again on Amazon Prime Video.