kaos at the 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

"An inspiring insiders’ account of the radical protest group the Aids Coalition to Unleash Power, generally known as ACT-UP. Out of the darkest days of the Aids epidemic a vibrant and urgent protest movement was created. The group started in New York and was a powerful and dynamic force orchestrating some extraordinary protests which captured imaginations and went on to save lives. Health education and medical research is difficult to make sexy and compelling but this coalition of artists and activists managed it. And they recorded everything they did on video."

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP has one big problem: How To Survive A Plague.

It concentrates - surprise! - on the ACT UP movement, rather than the specific journey of surviving the AIDS epidemic that its Oscar-nominated sister does. But it covers a lot of the same ground, uses the same source material (that amazing "found footage"), and we see a lot of the same clips we saw in How To Survive A Plague.

United also suffers from being less slick than Plague, with a few decisions undermining it. There's the timeline that signposts the journey, and an odd soundtrack, both of which combine to lend proceedings the feel of those educational videos we used to have in school.

But these are fairly minor, cosmetic details which are only relevant when contrasting the ballsy Plague approach. The footage, and the story, is fascinating, and as with Plague, one airbrushed from history. United in Anger tells us about the terrible impact the epidemic had on women (they weren't included in the CDC definition of the virus, and therefore didn't receive benefits), about ACT UP's poster art and its relevancy today (its influence on the Occupy movement), and on a lighter note, how those New York ACT UP meetings were a seething hotbed of sexual tension.

Although undoubtedly in the shadow of How To Survive A Plague, United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is still utterly unmissable.

Tonight I'm seeing Four.
Check back for my review tomorrow!


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