The common thread running through the work of journalist and documentary maker David France is perhaps queer activism, and yet he doesn’t consider himself an activist. “I didn’t have what it takes to be a leader in difficult times, to find answers and to bring people with me,” he told me earlier this month at a call from his apartment in East Village in New York. “It was not my skills. “
It turned out that his strength was as an observer, someone who functioned as a megaphone for those on the front line. France has chronicled ACT UP and other groups that demanded further medical research during the escalation of the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, first for alternative queer publications and later for consumer publications, including Newsweek and the New York magazine, before embarking on cinema in 2012 with “How to survive a plague”, tells his story, using archive footage, of the battle led by the protests against H.I.V. “I have always been interested in studying people who are capable of intensifying and initiating transformative activism from the outside,” he said.
His latest film, “Welcome to Chechnya”, released on June 30 on HBO, builds on this theme. He follows an underground group of activists who risk their lives to provide a sanctuary and a safe passage to the L.G.B.T.Q. citizens of the Russian Republic, where homosexuals are regularly tortured and killed in a campaign to purify the so-called lineage of the country – violence the government has largely ignored. This is the conclusion of what France considers its trilogy, starting with “How to survive a plague”, which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary, and its 2017 film “The death and life of Marsha P . Johnson “, on the mysterious death of the prominent black trans activist.