Koch's review is especially strange, because in the weeks before, he had both unsubscribed from a press list after being invited to see "Plague" and written a commentary explaining why Putin was right to arrest Pussy Riot by comparing the band's anti-religious action to ACT UP's own protest action in St. Patrick's Cathedral, which, he admits in his review, he continues to find revolting.
Indiewire reached out to Koch to elaborate on his feelings about the film this week, but he responded by saying he had nothing left to say beyond what is in his review.
Koch's review was not the only surprise. The politics of Andrew Sullivan, the neoliberal gay HIV-positive Daily Beast columnist, are widely understood to be far removed from the kinds of revolutionary actions ACT UP engaged in (in his review, Sullivan explains how his HIV diagnosis pushed him along his own life journey as a writer). He was in New York, though, at the time, and had this to say about ACT UP and the film in his review from the Provincetown Film Festival:
ACT-UP had its problems. It would alienate people unnecessarily; it would polarize; it would disrupt religious services; it could be a parody of p.c. claptrap (some meetings were interminable victim-fests), and tiresomely accuse almost anyone not in ACT-UP of being a murderer (yes, I was busted more than once). And yet all of this was a function of rage and will that was and is inextricable from defeating the plague.
"How To Survive A Plague" is the first documentary that I have seen that does justice to this story of a civil rights movement rising from the ashes of our dead.
So in the end, Sullivan shows respect for the organization's work.
This weekend, in recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the "Plague" team will be screening the film in more than 100 locations across the country. "Plague" also will be shown at a number of U.S. embassies around the world (especially, following the suggestion of a fan of the film who works in the Albanian embassy, in Eastern Europe) as a part of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's initiative to include LGBT rights in human-rights efforts around the world.
A special Google+ Hangout On Air will host a conversation about AIDS activism with France, Staley and singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo Dec. 3 at 8 pm EST.