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'Plague' spreads to London

David France talks about his AIDS activism documentary How To Survive A Plague.


Director David France was at the East End Film Festival in London yesterday with the London premiere of his Sundance hit documentary How To Survive A Plague, about a remarkable group of AIDS activists in the 1980s and 1990s. The film serves not only as a reminder of their heroic brave actions in that decade, but also as a portrait of the passions and pitfalls of activism itself — something obviously relevant decades later.

Speaking to the audience at the Hackney Picturehouse after the screening, France noted that to many audiences, his film tells of forgotten history. “What I’ve found is that there’s a divide from about age 35 to 40 and under, where they just don’t know this history. They think the system took care of it…that’s what I wanted to counter. People under 35 are shocked at how disenfranchised we were.”


France was a longtime investigative journalist who covered the AIDS epidemic, and decided to make his first film about the subject about three years ago. “So much about AIDS and the way we understood the plague years was a story of tragedy and death. While it WAS that, it was so much more. A lot of good came from the AIDS crisis, and much of that good was thanks to the folks whose story we have told in this film.”

He was joined after the screening on a panel with Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of THT, Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes for gay men’s health charity GMFA, and Gus Cairns, journalist and former editor of Positive Nation.

Readers' comments (1)

  • I would have loved to attend this screening but am currently sick in bed.
    The HIV/AIDS activists have inspired me a great deal in my current struggle against chronic ill health.
    My questions to the film makers and attendees would have been to ask how other disabled groups can harness the same energy and make the same incredible difference.
    I have the disease ME and immune system abnormalities. Research is almost non-existant and treatments experimental.
    ME patients are in the same position PWAIDS were in the 80's yet we can't raise the same interest in the media or public. That could be because we usually live a lot longer and are hidden away for decades before we die.
    In 30 years I hope that we can say that no one would believe how disenfranchised we are. One thing that is so noticable is how physically well people were and how many physically well helpers were. It takes a lot of strength to organise and demonstrate. What to do when the patient group doesn't have either? I salute the early AIDS activists and admire them.

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