Winner 2013

Independent Lens: How to Survive a Plague

How to Survive a Plague LLC, Public Square Films, Impact Partners, Little Punk

When the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, better known by its acronym ACT UP, first staged protests in New York in 1987, the epidemic was in its sixth year. Most people who contracted the disease died. Drugs to stop or slow AIDS were nonexistent, research minimal. Hospitals rejected the dying, funeral homes refused their remains. Government and religious leaders tended to blame the victims. It was a dark time in more ways than one. How to Survive a Plague revisits that time, providing a defiant, boisterous, illuminating, and humbling retrospective of how some of the sick and abandoned took responsibility for their own fates, using whatever means possible –- information campaigns, mass protests, guerilla theater -– to fight the hysteria and misinformation and push for research. Relying largely on previously unseen video shot by AIDS activists themselves, David France’s documentary chronicles the epic campaign against ignorance and homophobia. In the process, he and those activists provide an adaptable, practical model for pursing social justice. For its vivid, instructive remembrance of a heroic crusade and the great good it achieved, Independent Lens: How to Survive a Plague receives a Peabody Award.


Executive Producers:  Joy Tomchin, Dan Cogan, Sally Jo Fifer (ITVS). Senior Series Producer: Lois Vossen (ITVS). Co-Executive Producer: Alan Getz. Producers: David France, Howard Gertler. Director: David France. Writers: David France, T. Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk.