The third film, “How To Survive a Plague,” a documentary by journalist David France that premieres Oct. 12 at the Landmark E Street Cinema, uses footage shot by AIDS activists in the “dark days” of the epidemic in 1987 to show how a grass-roots effort was effective in getting government to act, focusing on ACT UP and TAG.
France, who reported on the AIDS epidemic as a journalist in New York City during the 1980s, collected footage from the people he covered at the time, giving a snapshot of the behind-the-scenes fight for HIV/AIDS patients to be accepted by society and for the government to fast-track the approval of drugs to try and slow the fast-spreading illness that was killing thousands.
“I wanted to look back at that period … to look at the role of advocacy and activism that made it possible to survive an HIV infection,” France said. “When you go back and actually do an instant replay on the video tape, you see the tremendous and necessary role of activists in bringing about those changes and transforming the health care system that made it possible to discover a breakthrough in treating the plague.”
France added, “I think the bigger message of the film is one of those fundamentally American messages, that disenfranchised individuals with no experience can accept a desire to overcome terrible circumstances and can actually make a difference.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.