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How to Survive a Plague

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Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Staley, Larry Kramer, Iris Long, Bill Bahlman, David Barr
  • Directors: David France
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: February 26, 2013
  • Run Time: 109 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00A92MGLA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #37,354 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Documentary and featured on over 15 top-ten lists, 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 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. Theirs is a classic tale of activism that has since inspired movements for change in everything from breast cancer research to Occupy Wall Street.


One of the most important documentaries in years or decades ... --Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

Moving and essential. --Bruce Diones, New Yorker

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. --Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle

Customer Reviews

What a wonderful, emotional, beautiful, and inspiring story.
Knox Hedrick
It highlights the amazing work of AIDS activists, many of whom didn't survive to see the positive results of their work.
These people were seeing their loved ones die and were sick with worry about their own prospects for survival.
Jean E. Pouliot

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2013
Format: DVD
I was a nurse during the early days of AIDS. I remember young men dying and not being able to find a funeral home that would take the body. I remember the feeling of helpless as a nurse, no real treatment for my patients, family was rare, other students and health care personnel would try and avoid these people as if they had the plague. Well, yes, indeed, they did have a plague, and no one was doing anything to help, it seemed.

This is a film about the activists in the Gay Community, who gathered to fight this disease that was taking their lovers, friends and community. Act Up with Larry Kramer was loud and proud. They forced pharmaceutical companies to start working for medications, the Government to listen and care,,and the population who were doing nothing. Essentially Larry Kramer and his fellow men fought the plague, while most everyone else stood around and looked.

This was a horrible time, President Reagan disavowed all knowledge. Thousands of men were dying and very few cared. These men were and are heroes. Why so many did so little will never be forgotten. Today we have drugs that work in tandem that have made AIDS a chronic disease. The Gay Community saved themselves, no one else. What a deadly legacy we almost gave our fellow humans. Bless all those who are gone.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 03-02-13
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jay B. Lane TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 24, 2012
Format: DVD
This documentary by David France explores the early advent of AIDS, its impact on "Ground Zero" (in Greenwich Village), and the birth of the gay advocacy groups ACT UP and TAG.

Of course, given the topic, we know that many of those attractive, articulate and intelligent men we meet will be dead by the time the final credits run, but it is endlessly fascinating to see how smart the activists were and how quickly they learned everything they had to know in order to have credibility with the US FDA and with Big Pharma. They actually wrote the protocol for testing that surprised the federal agency with its professionalism and ease of application.

There are meetings in which the activists learn the art of the "sound bite" and are reminded to be passive and polite but express their outrage to any media in the area. It shows the ads they sponsored attacking President George H. W. Bush, it shows a defensive Bill Clinton dressing down an activist and surprisingly, it shows Patrick Buchanan agreeing with an ACT UP spokesman as opposed to a government official.

Several pharmaceutical companies began working with them and along with a little success, came internal squabbles. In one clip, playwright/ activist Larry Kramer blasts them for their petty quarrels while "we are fighting a plague!"

Remember the AIDS quilt? The dumping of victims' ashes on the White House lawn? The Senate hearings? The Kaposi's Sarcomas? The advent of the three-way cocktail that ultimately saved thousands of lives? There is much, much more to see. I felt this 2012 Seattle International Film Festival entry was somewhat dated, but to the best of my knowledge, no one has documented the entire arc, so it's about time! Amazon.com will notify me when it's available.

This documentary has received a well-deserved nomination for Best Documentary in the 2013 Academy Awards.
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Format: DVD
It hadn't been that long since I sat down with David Weissman's stirring documentary about the early days of AIDS in San Francisco "We Were Here." And truthfully, I wasn't sure I wanted to partake of the similarly themed "How To Survive A Plague" quite so soon afterwards. I'm glad that I didn't listen to myself! This Oscar nominated feature by David France is like a living history, an important chronicle filmed throughout the eighties and nineties by those on the front lines of the crisis. While "We Were Here" is personal and stirring, "How To Survive A Plague" is epic and challenging. Based almost entirely in New York City, the film explores the activism and unwavering commitment of those who simply could not stay quiet as an epidemic was being compartmentalized by the nation and its leaders. What is so incredibly powerful about France's documentary is how relevant and vital it feels. This was history in-the-making within my lifetime, and this film maintains an unparalleled urgency.

While "How To Survive A Plague" does feature plenty of interviews with key members of the ACT UP movement, this is not a standard "talking heads" style presentation. Meetings, casual moments, and big protests were all captured while they were happening. Instead of the movie feeling like a remembrance, it feels incredibly timely and alive. As a viewer, I felt like I was there. That's a huge compliment to the way in which this presentation was assembled and why I think this should be essential viewing to just about everyone. It depicts ordinary citizens standing up for a basic healthcare imperative against obstacles of ignorance, indifference, and apathy because the disease was perceived as a homosexual problem.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Gregory E. Highfill on April 3, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I think this is an important documentary for young people to watch, since HIV/AIDS has been so minimized since the protease inhibitors were introduced in 1996. People now think HIV is no big deal, you just pop pills and live goes on. But it still IS a big deal, and once infected with HIV, life in never the same.

I lived through this time living with HIV, expecting to die before anything could be done. Young people today don't watch their friends drop like flies wasted away to concentration camp victims. Young people NEED to watch this film, but I just couldn't after about 35 minutes. It became just too painful. It pushed too many of my PTSD buttons, yet I feel it's an important film, demonstrating the power in activism. So many of us are alive today due to activism to change the way the FDA releases HIV drugs. We just didn't have the time for the usual drug approval process.
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