By: Henry J. Fromage (Four Beers) –
It’s bizarre to me that there’s an entire generation old enough to drink or nearly so that doesn’t think of AIDS as the absolute death sentence it once appeared to be, without any hope on the horizon. While now (if you can afford it, of course) you can live a long, full life with the disease, I remember when there was nothing scarier like it was yesterday.
Now Megasharks have reclaimed their rightful places atop the fear scale
How to Survive a Plague is a documentary about the people that help make this possible in America- the activists, many suffering from the disease themselves, who put everything on the line to ensure that the drugs that sufferers needed got into their hands as quickly as possible, and that the government and corporations making them didn’t impede that.
The filmmakers had access to a treasure trove of behind the scenes footage of those times, and deftly interweave it with interviews spanning from then to the present day. This approach makes for an incredibly informative and very personal look at the AIDS crisis and the struggle to end it. It’s also often a heart-rending look, as the film doesn’t shy from showing those ravaged by the disease- people who may have been saved with quicker governmental and corporate action and less feet dragging from blindly conservative politicians and organizations (seriously, is there anything LESS Christian than refusing someone in need, regardless of their personal choices?)
Nice try. MechaHitler is still more Christian than that
This isn’t all doom and gloom, though. The documentary celebrates what a group of brave, determined individuals can accomplish when they work together for something. It’s absolutely inspirational, and in a late, amazingly-timed reveal, heartbreakingly powerful.
One gripe is that the filmmakers stick with the archival footage of planning the demonstration/having the demonstration/explaining the impact of the demonstration model a bit too much. It all starts to blend together a bit.
There’s a near total lack of other perspectives of the crisis and how it was handled that would have added some needed well-roundedness to the film. In the case of a documentary like 5 Broken Cameras that shows a personal viewpoint on an issue, this is forgivable because it never tries to present itself as anything more than that. The problem is, How to Survive a Plague does.
The science of the treatments, especially the ones that were finally successful, is touched upon, but only briefly. I would have liked to see more. On a related note, something left a bad taste in my mouth about several of the activists happily taking credit for the end result of halting AIDS in its tracks. This is where it would have been interesting to hear something from the scientists.
This documentary is a bit conventional in presentation, but there’s nothing conventional about the bravery and sacrifice made by the people documented within as they struggled to fight what truly was (and is) a modern plague.
Take a Drink: for every demonstration or strategy meeting
Take a Drink: every time numbers flash on screen
Do a Shot: whenever a public figure says something mind-numbingly ignorant