27th Apr2014

Sundance Film Festival London – Film

by timbaros

images-157The famous film festival that is Sundance is back again this weekend, in London.

Held at the 02, Sundance again promises films that have not yet been seen in the UK, plus loads of events, including some that are open to the general public.
Kicking off the festival is the UK premiere of Fruitvale Station, a devastating re-creation of the death of San Francisco Bay area resident Oscar Grant, who was accidentally shot and killed by the police on New Year’s Day, 2009. The performances by both Michael B. Jordan as Grant and especially Octavia as his mother are said to be the best of the year. This one is not to miss.
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon with Director Michael Winterbottom bring to the festival a film called The Trip to Italy. Edited from the six episodes which were show on the BBC, the film is a stand alone sequel that will include a heavy dose of humor from both Coogan and Brydon.
In one of the most unusual films of the festival and of Michael Fassbender’s career, he plays Frank in a movie of the same name. Fassbender unfortunately wears a large fake head in this film as he plays a musical genius who leads a rock band.
Famous American actors Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler come together to star in a film called They Came Together. They find themselves in a romance after Rudd’s corporate executive character tries to shut down Poehler’s small candy store. Are they meant to be together or will their business dealings tear them apart?
Sundance London is hosting the international premiere of the documentary The Case Against 8, with 8 being the law that California passed in 2008 that was Proposition 8, which repealed the right of same-sex couples to marry. Though it may seem outdated now that quite a few states in the U.S. have approved gay marriage, it is nonetheless the telling of how one of the most liberal states in the U.S. tried to prevent gay marriage from being legally accepted.
Sundance London will also be showing films that they call ‘From the Collection.’ These films include Reservoir Dogs, Memento, and Winter’s Bone, which starred a then unknown Jennifer Lawrence. There is also two Short film programmes and a Shorts workshop, which is designed to empower the next generation of filmmakers.
The best part of the festival could be the free events. There will be a pop-up stage right in the new Brooklyn Bowl in the 02, with shows to be performed by over a dozen artists, including The Soho Hobo, Goldheart Assembly, 18-year old singer Luke Fincher, Lesley Pike, 15-year old Natalie Shay, and Mo Evans. A free comedy show will be performed by David Cross, an Emmy-winning comedian, and David Wain, a comedy writer. This will be held in the Brooklyn Bowl venue and is a free event subject to venue capacity.
For information on more events and the entire film/shorts programme, please visit Sundance London at:
24th Apr2014

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – DVD

by timbaros
images-50It seems like Ben Stiller has been making movies for decades. As a matter of fact, he has. His first acting gig was given to him thanks to his mother (Anne Meara) making a call to a director asking him to hire her son. Luckily for us, he did, and the rest, as they say, is history. Stiller (whose father is the very funny comedienne Jerry Stiller), while not an Academy Award winner, has impressed us with a amazing repertoire of films. And now he impresses us even more with his newest film – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Directed, co-produced and starring Stiller, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a remake of the 1947 film which starred Danny Kaye. It is about a daydreaming magazine photo editor on a mission to finally meet his magazine’s top photographer. It is also a story of Mitty having a first go on a dating website and at the same time trying to impress a divorced mom he works with at the magazine.
Stiller is Mitty, a lonely man, while happy at his job in the photo department at Life Magazine, is stuck in a rut. He daydreams as well, in scenarios where he saves a dog from a burning building, where he beats up a member of the magazine’s management team, and he even dreams that he can fly. He has also just joined the dating website eHarmony where he tries to send a wink to Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wigg), the woman he works with at the magazine. He is unable to send the wink so he calls eHarmony customer support and speaks to an eHarmony representative (the voice of The King of Queen’s Patton Oswalt). This voice relationship is carried throughout the film, with the representative doing all he can to spruce up Mitty’s profile so that he can get a few winks from females on the site, which hopefully may lead to some dates. Meanwhile, at the magazine, the new management teams announces that it will no longer be publishing but that an online version will be the way forward (scary to think about), so most of the staff have been told that they will be fired, and this includes Walter and Cheryl. Meanwhile, the magazine’s star photographer Sean O’Connell has sent Walter the photo (still number 25) that is to be used for the cover of the final issue, and Walter can’t find it. It is not in the envelope O’Connell sent with other photos, so Walter feels that it is up to him to track down O’Connell (and the missing photograph). Using the other photos as clues, and determined to get that photo and to finally meet Sean, Walter travels the globe to places he has only seen in photos, going from one beautiful location to another, and he sets off on an adventure of a lifetime. He goes to Greenland, where he jumps from a helicopter into a shark-infested ocean, to Iceland where he escapes from an exploding volcano, and to Afghanistan, where he climbs the snow-capped mountains. And as a added bonus, he can also include these adventures on his eHarmony profile, as he had not done anything exciting in his life prior to this. At the same time, all his sister talks about is her new acting role as Rizzo in a church production of Grease, and their mom (an underused Shirley Maclaine) is in the process of moving to a smaller flat.
Stiller has done an amazing job in not only acting in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but also directing it. It is an excellent effort in that it shows Stiller’s range as a director, taking the movie from scenes in the middle of Manhattan, to foreign countries, to rough oceans and to high mountains. Even the quirky romance between him and Cheryl is charming. This movie is not your typical Ben Stiller film, who for the most part makes fare to middling comedic movies (such as the Night at the Museum film and it’s sequel, and The Fokkers films). Stiller, however, proved back in 2008 with Tropic Thunder that he is a moviemaker to be reckoned with, and with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, he ups his game. The rest of the cast is fine, Wiig doesn’t have much to do, just smile and talk about her son, while Adam Scott is good as the new manager who has to fire the whole staff. But the film is all about Stiller. And while the Production values are very good, and the cinematography is excellent, it is a real feat that Stiller could pull this one off. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is highly recommended.


18th Apr2014

Locke – Film

by timbaros

images-151Locke is about a man driving his car down a motorway while fielding phone calls on his hands free mobile phone. That may sound dull but actually Locke is one of the most gripping films you will see this year.

Tom Hardy enters a new acting stratosphere here (think Tom Hanks category) in his role as Ivan Locke. Locke is a man with lots of problems. He is under intense pressure, both in his professional life but especially in his personal life.
Locke is driving down the motorway when he starts to receive one phone call after another. Where is he off to? You sees, Locke got a woman pregnant 7 1/2 months ago, her name is Bethan (voiced by Olivia Colman). She is about to give birth to his child, and she is two hours away in London. Locke is also in charge of a massive concrete pour at the construction sight he manages – the largest construction sight in Europe. Meanwhile, Locke’s family is waiting for him to come home. So instead of going to the building sight in Birmingham or to his family home in Stratford-Upon-Avon, he feels he needs to do the right thing; to be at Bethan’s side for the delivery of his child.
The plot appears quite thin but believe me it’s not. It’s an exhilarating thrill of a ride with Tom Hardy at the wheel, spending the entire tension-fueled 90 minutes driving his car with the camera either in his face or from behind his head.
Locke calls his boss and tells him that he’s not going to be at the building sight the next day to oversee the project. So Locke has to rely on his not very sober colleague Donal (the voice of Andrew Scott) and advises him over the phone what he need exactly needs to do. In between conversations with his boss and Donal, Lock is calling and receiving calls from his his wife and two young sons asking what time he’s going to be home because he’s late and will miss the big game on television. In the midst of these calls, he’s also fielding calls from Bethan who’s scared and alone at the hospital about to give birth and she wants him to be there. It gets more urgent when the nurse assigned to Bethan tells him that she’s close to giving birth, and more so when Locke’s wife Katrina (voiced by Ruth Wilson) slowly comes to the realization why Locke is not coming home and why. We see Locke’s face during this stream of phone calls, stressed, confused, hurried, and frustrated.

Locke is a unique piece of filmmaking, anything unlike I’ve seen in a long time. Writer/Director Steven Knight had Hardy for only two weeks to shoot this film, as Hardy  was in between films. After shooting Hardy, Knight shot scenes from the back of a head and various other shots using a Hardy stand-in. And Locke is told in real time which allows the viewer to feel the clock ticking, just like Locke does. The backdrop and look of this film – a hypnotic vista of motorway lights illuminating Locke’s face – adds to the intensity. When you leave this film you will feel like you just ran a marathon. It’s a must see.
12th Apr2014

Nebraska – DVD

by timbaros
images-149Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) thinks that he was won $1,000,000.00 because of a letter he received from a company in Lincoln, Nebraska, so he tries to get to Lincoln from his home in Billings, Montana to collect the money. This is the plot of the new film Nebraska.
Woody, a grouchy and confused eighty-something former war veteran (and alcoholic) and father of two grown men is certain that he won $1,000,000.00. He is so certain that he starts walking on highway 90 to Lincoln, 898 miles from Billings. His son David (Will Forte) picks him up from the highway and takes him back home, back home to where his nagging wife Kate (June Squibb) keeps on harking on about how absent-minded he is, how silly he is to believe he won the money. She is just about the worst nagging wife any man could have. Will, on the other hand, who works at a shop selling televisions and stereos, has just broken up with his girlfriend, and doesn’t seem to be too jealous about his brother Ross’s (Bob Odenkirk) burgeoning career as a television newscaster. David, tired of hearing from his father how determined he is to travel to Lincoln to get his winnings, offers to drive him, so they embark on a father and son road trip. They drive through Wyoming and South Dakota (with a one-minute stop at Mt. Rushmore), and it is decided, that after speaking to Kate and Ross (and after a short hospital stay), that they should all go to Hawthorne for a family reunion, as this is where Woody is from and where him and Kate met and got married. Once in Hawthorne, they stay at the house of Woody’s brother, who happens to have two fat unemployed sons living with him. Woody opens his big mouth about winning $1,000,000 and soon almost everyone in town is asking for money, including long lost relatives who have come out of nowhere, and Woody’s former business partner Ed (Stacy Keach). While in Hawthorne, the Grant family drives around while Kate has to comment about everything and everybody. And her comments are never nice, they are rude and vile. One comment she makes is about her buried niece, she says that she was a slut.
The two cousins get hold of Woody’s letter, along with Ed, and they realize that the letter is not an announcement to win that money, it is a letter to order magazine subscriptions with the chance of winning $1,000,000.00. Woody is then made the laughing stock of the town. But just to appease his father and to let him have some closure, they drive to Lincoln and go the company’s office to check.
Dern gives a career performance as Woody, with his long grey hair and confused look, he is playing the character of Woody to perfection. Dern is deserving of the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this film, and for his long and established career in Hollywood, which includes more than 80 feature films, including Django Unchained, Wild Bill, Black Sunday, and the original The Great Gatsby. Forte, a former performer on America’s Saturday Night Life television comedy program, is a revelation as the understanding son David. It is June Squibb as Kate who steals every scene she is in. She has nothing good to say about anyone, and her constant harking to Woody could be a sign of great affection for him, and also a sign that she knows Woody is on his last legs and that she will miss him dearly when he dies.
The script, by Bob Nelson, is sharp, crisp, funny, and heartwarming. There will probably not be a film this year that will touch you the way this film does. Nebraska is filmed in black and white to give it a raw, dramatic look. Directed with love and care by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways), Nebraska is just one of those films that will make you look at the relationship that you have with your parents. Dern and Forte won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively from the National Board of Review. Nebraska was nominated for six Academy Awards and Dern really deserved to win, but it was tough competition in the Best Actor category. Hopefully Bruce Dern one day will win an Oscar.


10th Apr2014

Tom at the Farm/Xavier Dolan – Film

by timbaros

images-148At only 24 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has four films under his belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about Dolan as a young gay man at odds with his mother, writing the script when he was the tender age of 17. It won 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The next year he wrote, directed, produced and starred (again) in Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), a story about three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. It was in 2012 that Javier continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was a bold choice for the young director to make a film as ambitious as this, one about the struggles of a straight man who, over the course of ten years, transitions from male to female and how it affects the relationship with his lover (with amazing performances by Melvil Poupajd and Suzanne Clément). Laurence Anyways won many awards, including two Cannes Film Festival Awards (the Queer Palm Award and Best Actress for Clément). Lawrence Anyways was also nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards (winning two), and more importantly, at the Toronto International Film Festival it won Best Canadian Feature film. Not bad for a local boy.

2014 sees Dolan’s most bold work yet. It is a film called Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), and the Tom in the title of the film is Dolan. For his fourth feature film, Dolan puts himself in the lead in a film that he also wrote, produced and directed. Looking so unlike his usual self, with long blond shaggy hair, Dolan again revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance. Tom, who works in an advertising agency, travels to the Canadian countryside for a funeral. It is not just anybody’s funeral, it is the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend (Guillaume). The problem is that his grieving mother did not know that he was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about his life, as he had not been in contact with her for a long time. This is not the only problem Tom faces. Guillaume’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that he was gay and never really could accept it. In fact, nine years prior he had beaten up a man who had been dancing with his brother, and his violent nature and temper has him banned from most places in town. He still lives with their mother, on a farm, that he hopes to one day inherit after his mother passes away (he tells Tom in a highly charged scene that shows them dancing with each other in the barn) as there is no one else left in the family. Francis plays psychological games with Tom, at times beating him up and then at other times charming him. He has some kind of hold on Tom. With mesmerizing good looks and an athletic body, Cardinal commands the screen in every scene he is in. So it’s no surprise that Tom has a crush on him. The mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), is a bit crazy, maternal madness, having lost her husband years ago and now her youngest son that she barely knew. She is introduced to a woman who she is led to believe her dead son was dating, a woman who is a friend of Tom’s where he asks her to visit the grieving mother and pretend that she was his girlfriend. And Francis sets his lecherous ways on her. Dolan has set the soundtrack of Tom at the Farm to Hitchcockian music (by Gabriel Yared), with stunning visual images in the film (as he did in Laurence Anyways) of long shots of a highway, the middle of cornfields, and facial images that will last long after you see the film. 
After creating a trilogy of the subject of impossible love (Dolan’s words), he has now changed direction to create a suspenseful film that, while still stays on the subject of homosexuality, is very dramatic and is another amazing creation by a young man who has yet to turn 25. 
Dolan got the idea of Tom at The Farm after seeing a play in Montreal with the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard. He had a six month window of time between his next project, and the play and its theme really interested him, so he decided to shoot it as a film. Tom at the Farm screened in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Prize (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique), and was also shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. 
What’s next for Dolan, besides conquering the world? He has mentioned that he wants to make a film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which will be about an American celebrity who maintained a correspondence before his success with an 11-year old boy in Britain, causing a scandal once it became known. If his previous films are anything to go by, the new film (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees. 


05th Apr2014

Floating Skyscrapers – DVD

by timbaros
images-147There have not been too many Gay & Lesbian films from Poland but in the past year there have been two. The first was ‘In The Name Of,’ which dealt with a homosexual priest, and was well-received by the critics. Now comes ‘Floating Skyscrapers’ which is about a young athlete torn between his love for another boy and the love of his girlfriend.
Directed by gay Polish director Tomasz Wasilewski, Floating Skyscrapers is a dramatic filled movie about Kuba (a very good and very sexy Mateusz Banasiuk) who swims on his high school swim team and lives with his young girlfriend and also with his mother. He meets and falls in love with Michal (Bartosz Gelner), but at the same time doesn’t want to ruin his relationship with his girlfriend (an excellent Marta Nieradkiewicz). There are lots of lingering moments of silence in Floating Skyscrapers that increases the dramatic tension in the film, bringing it to a surprising ending. Wasilewski says that when he was 13 he went to New York on vacation and while sightseeing, he was facing the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and he had the words ‘floating skyscrapers’ stuck in his head from then, it was an image that he continued to remember, so much so that he told himself that one day he will write a movie with that title. Then when he was writing the script, he was looking for a metaphor for happiness, for this place where everything will be okay. Wasilewski’s first film was 2012’s In A Bedroom, where a 40 year-old woman prowls the internet posing as a series of different women in search of casual sex. And now with Floating Skyscrapers, Wasilewski is not only a rising talent in his native homeland in Poland but also an out gay director who will definitely go on to make many more excellent movies.

03rd Apr2014

I Can’t Sing – Theatre

by timbaros

images-144Dear Simon, you know how much I love you, you are in my thoughts 24/7 and I wouldn’t dream of living a life without you. All my love, Simon.

I Can’t Sing – a/k/a The X Factor Musical, plays like a boring love letter from Simon to himself. It starts with Simon as a young boy (the child actor who played him the night I saw it sang awful), watching television and dreaming of the day when he will be on television. Lucky for us that dream came true.
In addition to a musical that is basically all about Mr. Cowell and his creation that is the X-Factor, we get an X-Factor storyline, so two for the price of one. Honestly, I would’ve preferred neither.
Cynthia Erivo plays Chenice, a simple black girl who happens to have a great voice (at this point we can figure out how I Can’t Sing will end). She lives in a one room trailer with one electricity socket, with her uncle who happens to be in an iron lung, with another guy (it’s not too clear how he fits in with this small family) who happens to have a dog attached to his arm, and they all happily live underneath a motorway, (really, I’m not making this up!). Chenice really really likes white guy Max (Alan Morrissey), and he urges her to enter a singing competition with him.
It’s so obvious at this point where I Can’t Sing  is going to take us. Chenise and Max head to the auditions – other wannabees include an overweight supermarket cashier, twins who pass exactly for Jedward, an unkempt talentless trio, and a hunchback (yes, really). Oh, don’t forget that gust of wind that blows in every once in a while (yes, I know, it sounds preposterous, but it’s true).
Chenice’s audition doesn’t go very well as a fly flies into her mouth when she starts singing. So I guess to make sure we really understand what is happening here, above her on stage is a very huge mouth with very red lips with a large fly going right into her mouth (you can’t make this stuff up!). Chenice gets three no’s.
Up to now, I Can’t Sing is ridiculous mess. But it gets unbelievably worse. The contestants sing their hearts out, though it’s crystal clear that Chenise has the best voice of the lot. And she is by far the best character on the show. The worst are the characters modelled after Cheryl Cole and Louis Walsh. Victoria Elliott as “Jordy” and Ashley Knight as Louis are just awful. Their caricatures are so overacted and so badly over the top. Jordy is a no talent who’ll do anything for Mr. Boss Cowell who tries to cop off with Chenise’s boyfriend, while Elliot’s Louis is just a plain bumbling idiot. If I were the real Louis Walsh I would sue. Nigel Harman is the unfortunate actor chosen to play Simon Cowell. All he does is stand around with his chest stuck out, wearing sunglasses and barking orders as people scurry around him while others hold their breath when he enters a room. And then we get Liam O’Deary (Simon Bailey), who’s a more loud and obnoxious Dermot O’Leary.
As the “competition” winds down, Chenise is disqualified over claims that she stole the hunchback’s number in the auditions (she did). But it’s all a happy ending as Chenice does get to win the love of Sam and we all have a happy ending as we see Simon leave the stage in a spaceship (yes! really! I’m not making it up)!
I Can’t Sing is, of course, a musical parody, or a parody of a television show and it’s svengali, so it’s not supposed to be looked at, or compared to, an actual West End Musical. And we all know a bit about the humor of Harry Hill (who wrote the book and lyrics), whether you like it or not. But what is thrown at you on stage is a mish mash of the most insane rubbish that I have ever witnessed on a stage, it’s so so bad that it’s not even good. Lots of money was put into the  show, with flying couches, a realistic-looking check out line, the aforementioned flying saucer, but absolutely no thought was put into making this show a good night out. It’s not a good night out, not even if you’re an X Factor fan. It’s a big NO from me.


02nd Apr2014

Powder Room – DVD

by timbaros

images-44Ever wonder what happens in a woman’s powder room? The new film Powder Room will tell you all about it, more than what you want to know!

Starring Sheridan Smith and directed by MJ Delaney, Powder Room is an in your face comedy/drama about Sam’s (Smith) two separate group of friends who happen to be at the same nightclub on the same night. And Smith hopes that they don’t meet each other.
Sam is a late 20-something woman who has planned a night out at Fake Club in an unknown British city with her girlfriend Michelle (Kate Nash), who she hasn’t seen in five years and who now lives in Paris. Michelle brings along the snooty Jess (Oona Chaplin), her friend and business partner in Paris. Both Michelle and Jess are very stylish, very Parisian, in many ways the opposite of the real Sam.

Trouble for Sam starts when she sees in the powder room of the club her best mates Chanel (Jaime Winstone), Saskia (Sarah Hoare) and Page (Riann Steele). Sam doesn’t want both groups to meet because Sam has told Michelle and Jess that she is a lawyer, with a handsome boyfriend and a great life, unfortunately none of which is true. So Powder Room is all about both sets of girls going in and out of the powder room all night, each of them with their own set of problems/issues. Promiscuous Chanel has been following a man around the club, telling everyone that ‘he is the one’. Saskia and Page end up taking the hallucinogenic drug MDMA and spend the evening tripping. And Sam is trying, successfully until the very end, to not let the two groups meet. All of this mayhem is overseen by the powder room toilet attendant (the lovely Johnnie Fiori). Meanwhile, loads of other different characters drift in and out of the powder room; putting makeup on, gossiping, checking their outfits, and, rarely using the toilet for its main purpose! One memorable character is a young woman who is dressed as a baby. She’s dressed this way only because her friends said that it was fancy dress night at the club!
Against the backdrop of all this mess is the music in the nightclub, played to a toe-thumping and memorable tunes by an all girl band, who are, in fact, called The Fake Club. Their music is excellent and is by far the best thing about this movie.
In Powder Room, based on the stage play When Women Wee, we see woman acting in a manner that not too many men can relate to, and don’t want to know. Is it too much? Perhaps. But the cast is very good and very charming, with Smith out in front, with good performances from the supporting characters. And credit also goes to director MJ Delaney, 27 years old, for doing a good job in helming her first feature length film. But keep an eye open for the group Fake Club – they will be very big very soon.
Powder Room is out in DVD now.

Powder Room [DVD] [2013] (DVD)

Director: M.J. Delaney
Starring: Sheridan Smith, Jamie Winstone, Kate Nash
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2.4 DVD: LANGUAGES: English ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), German ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Hungarian ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Polish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Turkish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Arabic ( Subtitles ), Danish ( Subtitles ), Dutch ( Subtitles ), English ( Subtitles ), Finnish ( Subtitles ), French ( Subtitles ), German ( Subtitles ), Hindi ( Subtitles ), Hungarian ( Subtitles ), Norwegian ( Subtitles ), Polish ( Subtitles ), Swedish ( Subtitles ), Turkish ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.85:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, SYNOPSIS: Powder Room is a comedy which follows Sam (Sheridan Smith), as her life is turned upside down on a big night out. When reunited with her old college friends, Sam is forced to revaluate her life and constructs an elaborate façade in order to convince herself and her friends that she has it all. But once her dysfunctional yet devoted trio of best mates intervene, her carefully crafted charade begins to crumble amidst the shots, cigarettes, ciders and toilet transgressions. Faced with some very harsh realities, Sam must struggle to remain true to herself and reassess exactly what she wants from life. ...Powder Room (2013)
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02nd Apr2014

How to Survive a Plague – DVD

by timbaros
images-143How to Survive a Plague (Directed by David France), nominated this past year for an Academy Award for Best Documentary, begins in 1987, six years into what activist Larry Kramer called ‘The Plague’ – the AIDS crisis.
It is in Greenwich Village in the 1980’s where HIV activism began, and we meet several very young men who unfortunately have been diagnosed as HIV Positive. They come together as part of the activist group ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) to protest against the government’s handling of the AIDS crisis. They perform civil disobedience demonstrations against the drug companies and get into shouting matches with political leaders. Amongst these men is Peter Staley, a former bond trader who was forced into disability at age 26 and was told he had only months to live. Other members of ACT UP that we meet in the documentary are Mark Harrington, who joined ACT Up upon learning that an ex-lover was sick, David Barr, a laywer who was one of the leaders of ACT Up, Bill Bahlman, who was one of the first in the community to invent the idea of  “treatment activism,” and Bob Rafsky, a former PR executive, with a young daughter, who becomes the mouthpiece for ACT Up.
In March 1987, ACT Up stages its first demonstration, on Wall Street, to protest the high cost of AZT, the only drug at that time prescribed to HIV patients. How to Survive a Plaque also shows, using archival and amateur footage throughout, the group staging protests on the Mall in Washington, D.C., at the Federal Drug Administration, in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, and at the headquarters of AZT manufacturer Burroughs Wellcome.
During the time of these protests, several members of ACT Up die of AIDS, and one is marched through the streets in Greenwich village on the eve of Bill Clinton winning the presidency. Another march on the White House is one of the most emotional parts of the film as we see several people throwing ashes of their loved ones over the fence and into the White House lawn. Eventually Act Up breaks into a couple splinter groups with the core of the activists establishing the Treatment Action Group whose sole purpose was to take their battle to the highest levels of AIDS research. There is a lot more to this documentary than what is written here, and if you are old enough to remember what it was like in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when friends were dying right and left, then this documentary will be very emotional to watch. How to Survive a Plague sets the record straight, for the first time, to show these few and young men fighting for their lives when no one else would fight for them. They helped to make survival of being HIV positive possible. And near the end, we see the surviving members what they look like today, with battlescars, both emotional and physical.

How to Survive a Plague [DVD] (DVD)

Director: David France
Rating: Exempt

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