New Kingston resident debuts film

Staff report
Part-time New Kingston resident David France is making his directorial debut.  France, who splits his time between New York City and the Catskills, has a new documentary entitled, “How to Survive a Plague.” It hits theaters on September 21.

Based on some very favorable screenings, including one which took place at The Roxbury Arts Group, the film is already generating early Oscar buzz. So far, the film is slated to be shown at a number of Landmark Theaters in 28 cities, as well as the IFC Center in New York City, said France.
Arrangements are still underway to bring the film to upstate theaters, but area residents with cable or satellite TV service may not have to leave home to see it. “It will be On Demand on the 28th, so people can see it here,” he said.

The film is about AIDS survival, not death. It follows a group of mostly HIV-positive men and women as they seek medical breakthroughs.

France, who is also a journalist and author, began work on the project in late 2009 and completed it in three years. “Most of the initial work was testing the hypothesis to see if I could make a documentary based on archival footage,” he said. “I wanted to tell the story of a number of individuals as they progress through a decade of struggle to try to find the drugs to make AIDS survivable.”

What he uncovered were 700 hours of archival footage shot by a group of AIDS activists who were friends. Many of them were members of groups such as ACT-UP.

“The most interesting part was there was a lot of footage being shot for public access cable (in New York City) from the ’80s,” said France. “People were signing up for their hour on public access to show their own footage, because the subject of AIDS was barely being covered by mainstream photojournalists.”

The documentary was supported in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, which was secured through The Roxbury Arts Group. The film, which required a team of full-time editors, was completed in January of this year. Just in time for it to be entered in the Sundance Film Festival.

“It was a finalist in the grand jury prize,” said France.

France, and his partner, Jonathan Starch, are perhaps best known locally as the owners of the Galli-Curci Theater in Margaretville. Starch, who has also worked on numerous films, is the producer of the NBC TV crime-drama series, Law and Order Special Victims Unit.

France has had three of his books turned into films: Our Fathers (2005), Soldier’s Girl (2003) and Thanks of a Grateful Nation (1998). He plans to spend a lot of time in New Kingston as he writes his next book, which he says will be a “companion in reverse” to the documentary. He is understandably grateful for his new success as a director.

“You always swing for the bleachers, right?” he said, with a smile.