17 feb. 2013

My Review: How to Survive a Plague (7/10)


¨Act Up. Fight Back. Fight AIDS.¨

Director David France does an impressive job of gathering information, data, news footage, and home videos during the decade long fight of the activist group known as ACT UP to find a way to stop the AIDS epidemic in this well constructed documentary. The film succeeds in showing us the anger and outrage that these men went through to stop government inaction on such a widespread plague that was killing off millions of people in the world. I was impressed with this chronological history that David France was able to put together in a brilliant way. My only complaint is that some things were repetitive as we see one rally after another in protest against the government. ACT UP assembled to fight and protest against the little support given by the Reagan and Bush administration, against the FDA which was taking too long to approve drugs that several patients needed, and the Catholic Church which condemned them. The documentary is full of anger, and there are several emotional moments as we see what some of these men had to go through in their struggle with the disease. During the 80´s having AIDS meant you had almost a 100% chance of dying; it was practically a death sentence. This made the homophobic atmosphere grow in communities where several hospitals neglected to give these patients health care. France follows the activist group, ACT UP, from its forming moments to its divisive ones, and finally to the goals they accomplished through some breakthroughs. It was not an easy fight, but their voice was heard. This is the story of how some of these men were able to survive the plague.

The story begins six years after the AIDS epidemic has begun to spread. It´s 1987 and a group of activists known as ACT UP decide to get together in New York City to protest against the way the AIDS epidemic has been treated. They form a coalition for healthcare after over half a million people had died of AIDS around the world. We follow the protests taking place against some government officials and the activists finally begin to get their voiced heard. David France isn’t afraid of sharing some strong images with the viewer as he shows everything in a very raw manner. Their next rallies take place over the country protesting against gay hate, and later we see them protest against the FDA for taking too much time to approve drugs. This leads some of the activists to begin receiving some underground drug treatments in order to try to expand their life as the sickness begins taking a toll on them. They begin to study and discover what the disease really was and fight for possible solutions as they form committees in order to understand AIDS better. They also form support groups for those people who had fear of coming out during that dangerous time. They studied several ways to slow down the virus, but as time passed more and more deaths were taking place. The film follows the decade long fight of ACT UP from 1987 to 1996 where they finally reached a breakthrough, although it came at a great cost.

Some of the important things the AIDS community accomplished were rising consciousness of what the disease really was, they made AIDS become an important issue during the 1992 presidential campaign, and they finally found drugs that helped slow down the effects of the virus. It wasn’t an easy fight as we feel the anger some of these men had towards the ineptness of the government of the time and the loss of some of their close friends and relatives. This was a very insightful story and part of American history that needed to be told. France did an excellent job at putting together all the footage and delivering a powerful and emotional documentary. It did drag a little, but it was a strong film.

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