Home  >  Movies & TV  >  Movie Reviews

Movie & TV Reviews

Movie review: 'Plague' documents extraordinary pioneers in AIDS fight

Posted 1:27pm on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012


Unrated (adult themes); 110 min.

The heroes of How To Survive a Plague stare death in the face. They send crowds into battle. Some don't survive; others, faced with crushing odds, persevere and emerge transformed. 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.

Directed and co-written by the author David France (who wrote Our Fathers, an account of the Catholic sex-abuse scandal), How To Survive a Plague tracks the history of AIDS activism -- specifically, the mobilization of New York City activists in response to ineffective treatment and governmental foot-dragging -- with piles of archival footage from the movement's beginnings through its growth and metamorphosis as the epidemic ballooned. A clutch of protagonists soon materialize: Peter Staley, the ex-bond trader who became an impassioned spokesman for ACT UP; Bob Rafsky, a publicist and divorced dad who came out at 40; and Mark Harrington, a Harvard-educated film archivist who wrote up a comprehensive treatment guide despite no formal medical background.

All of these characters show up in raw, rattling footage documenting ACT UP's planning sessions, protests and appearances at AIDS conferences. Dotted throughout are current interviews with many prominent figures, including playwright Larry Kramer. France opted to withhold certain present-day interviews until much later in the movie, turning the tales of key players into nail-chewing cinematic cliffhangers.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas

-- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?


Hey there. or join DFW.com. Your account. Log out.

Remember me




We now have a new, simpler way for you to enter and search for events, at listings.dfw.com. As always, when you submit an event to appear online, it will also be available for us in our print publication. But now you can simply enter your event and provide an email address, rather than creating a separate account and registering. Our new listings tool is still a work in progress, so we appreciate your patience as we fine-tune it. Please contact us at hsvokos@dfw.com if you have any questions or concerns.