New Kingston filmmaker nominated for an Oscar

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By Joe Moskowitz
An Academy Award. An “Oscar.” The best there is in the world of motion pictures. There is no higher honor. On February 24, a part-time New Kingston resident may take home the most coveted statuette in the entertainment world. And he gives a great deal of credit to having a conversation in Roxbury on a summer day a few years ago.

David France is the producer and director of “How to Survive a Plague,” a feature-length film that documents the life and all too often death struggle of two groups, Act-up, and TAG as they fought a seemingly unbeatable virus, the U.S. Government, The National Institute of Health, and much of society in general. They won and changed AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable disorder.

Received Oscar word
Last week France learned that “How to Survive a Plague” had been nominated for a Best Documentary ”Oscar.”

France told the News, ”When I started the film in 2009, I never dreamed I would get it finished, much less nominated for an Oscar.”

He says he was telling a friend about his plans as they stood on a sidewalk in Roxbury. But France says he had never made a movie before and had no idea no idea how to raise the money or find a team.

But he says, “It turns out I was lucky I was in Roxbury.” He says he got amazing help and encouragement from Ann Epner. Epner, who is now executive director of the Pine Hill Community Center, used to work for the Roxbury Arts Group. It was in that role that she obtained New York State Council on the Arts Grant to get France started. And, there is another Roxbury connection. Derek Weisehan, a Roxbury resident, is the film’s director of photography.

Three years later, France’s dream project hit the screens, and the rave reviews and awards started pouring in. Sundance, The Gotham Awards, The New York Film Critic’s Circle. The list goes on and on.

Top reviews
The San Francisco Chronicle says it is the second best reviewed film of the year. Not just documentary. The second best reviewed. Period. And now it is in contention for the biggest prize of them all.

France says, ”My hope in telling this film was to take a remarkable piece of recent history, as I witnessed it, and to salvage it from the dustbins of a forgotten past, and to keep it alive for future generations.”

And, he says, “The stars of “How to Survive a Plague” revolutionized every aspect of medicine and science and left a remarkable legacy. Now they are getting their due, finally.”

France says of the many nominations that he personally has been moved beyond words. They have given the film wide recognition and he says he is thankful that the film will be promoted on the Oscar telecast to remind the world about these heroes.