“How to Survive a Plague,” David France’s documentary about AIDS treatment activism in the years prior to the mid-‘90s introduction of protease inhibitors, has been nominated for a Best Documentary Academy Award.
The film follows a group of ACT UP members whose efforts to make treatments available to tens of thousands of people very sick will AIDS-related illnesses shifted from urgent demands for swift government action to a more collaborative approach, working with public health officials. The group of activists profiled includes those who, in 1992, founded the Treatment Action Group, an effort separate from ACT UP.
The film, which relies primarily on archival footage from 31 videographers, allowing a sweeping story to be told in remarkably cogent fashion, documents not only their shift in strategy, but also their success in pressing government health officials and pharmaceutical interests to allow them a seat at the table.
One of those whose story is part of the film is Spencer Cox, who died in late December from AIDS-related illnesses.
“How to Survive a Plague,” was nominated along with Kirby Dick’s "The Invisible War," about sexual assault in the military, including abuse aimed at lesbian servicemembers; Malik Bendjelloul’s “Searching for Sugar Man,” about Detroit-based ‘70s singer and songwriter Rodriguez; “Five Broken Cameras,” Guy Davidi and Emad Burnat’s film about life in a Palestinian farm village based on the experiences of Burnat, himself a farmer; and “The Gatekeepers,” Dror Moreh’s examination of Shin Bet, Israel’s secret internal security agency, based on interviews with its former leaders.
Among other nominations involving LGBT film artists, playwright and screenwriter Tony Kushner, creator of “Angels in America” among many honored stage productions, is one of the five contenders for Best Adapted Screenplay, for “Lincoln.” His screenplay is loosely based on historian Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”
The other Adapted Screenplay nominees are "Silver Linings Playbook" (David O. Russell), "Argo" (Chris Terrio), "Life of Pi" (David Magee), and “Beasts of the Southern Wild" (Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin).
Gay City News critics Steve Erickson and David Noh both selected “How to Survive a Plague” as among their top 10 for 2012, in lists that encompassed films beyond the specific focus of LGBT-themed. Erickson, who reviewed four of the five Best Documentary nominees in the newspaper, named “Searching for Sugar Man,” among his runners-up.