In 1987, ACT UP -- the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power -- was born in New York City, an activist-centered response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic that was largely going ignored by the American government. Through How To Survive A Plague, a documentary opening Friday, October 12 at the Denver FilmCenter, the story of these activists is told, sewn together by the underlying tale of how ACT UP restructured and gave power to modern social, political and health issue-related movements by the people.
How To Survive A Plague succeeds at contextualizing the direct action movement from all sides, delving into key activists' personal lives when warranted, but pulls back to show the bigger social and political picture. Straightforward interviews with those who were there -- Peter Staley, Mark Harrington, Derek Link and dozens of others -- are juxtaposed with footage of public funerals, activist-police clashes across the country and the hysteria-inciting TV news shots of individuals dying of AIDS-related complications.
In advance of How To Survive A Plague's Friday opening, here are five more films digging into the history and activism around AIDS and HIV and the GLBTQ civil rights movement that continues today.
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- David France examines the history and survival of ACT UP
- In Theaters: How To Survive A Plague
- Cinema Q kicks off a weekend of queer films tonight at Denver FilmCenter