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ABC Takes Miniseries Rights to Oscar-Nominated AIDS documentary 'How to Survive a Plague'

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by Jacob Combs
March 1, 2013 1:22 PM
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David France and Howard Gertler pose for a photo before the Academy Awards.
Jonathan Alcorn (Reuters) David France and Howard Gertler pose for a photo before the Academy Awards.

ABC Studios has bought the rights to David France's Oscar-nominated documentary "How to Survive a Plague" in hopes of turning it into a mini-series, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

France's documentary about ACT UP, a group of citizen activists who challenged the federal government's sclerotic approach to AIDS research and treatment in the late '80s and '90s, consists primarily of contemporary footage shot by journalists and the activists themselves.

ABC Studios, a production company owned by the Disney/ABC Television Group, hopes to develop the film into a scripted adaptation that would delve more deeply into the issues covered by "How to Survive."

Producer John Lyons will join the project as an executive producer along with France and "How to Survive" producer Howard Gertler. "These activists may have had to train themselves for the battle, but they were incredibly media savvy and were constantly filming everything," Lyons told the Hollywood Reporter. "So there's this treasure trove of this archival material, which we think can be cleverly introduced into the storytelling."

France has spoken in the past about his belief that the activism featured in his documentary fundamentally changed American medicine and political activism. "We know we’d like it to be an extended story that’s not just about AIDS and what AIDS wrought but about this tremendous civil rights movement that grew from the ashes of AIDS and the dawn of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender movement," France told the Hollywood Reporter.

ABC has stayed away from the mini-series format for several years, their last foray in 2008 with an adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's "A Raisin in the Sun."  The network's most famous mini-series is still 1977's  "Roots," which garnered Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody awards.

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