Filmmaker David France spoke with Deadline about the similarities he sees between the AIDS crisis of the early 80s and today's coronavirus pandemic.

France is best known for his 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary How To Survive A Plague, which chronicles the war waged by Act-Up and other groups for effective AIDS treatments.

For roughly 15 years of the crisis, there was no effective AIDS treatment and groups battled the government and Big Pharma to do more.

France said that the pandemic is a plague by definition because there is no cure or treatment.

“AIDS was a plague for 15 years, the Plague Years, up until 1996,” France said. “So we're in the same place right now, where if you get this thing, you're on your own.”

“If you look at that 15 years of AIDS – and this won’t be as long but it will certainly be incredibly devastating – the fear led to innovation, which led to good advice, neither of which got us out of the plague and so that led to anger, and anger led to activism and activism led to the kind of political pressure and economic pressure and cultural pressure that saw our way out of the Plague Years.”

“Certainly that anger will be expressed at the ballot box one way or another, and that's an appropriate place to put it, because this is really a political disaster that we're in.”

Other similarities exist between the two viruses. With AIDS, gay men were hit the hardest and heterosexuals largely ignored the crisis. Coronavirus is striking early in coastal big cities. Will this lead to complacency in middle America?

“What we have seen, and I’m sure we will see as the year unfolds, is Red America convincing itself that this really is overhyped because it’s not in their backyard, and they’re going to see it as being a pandemic impacting Blue America, the major cities. And within those Democratic strongholds, the disease takes a much harsher course in people who have already been excluded from the American health care system, and that’s where black and brown Americans are and that’s why we’re seeing such a huge, disproportionate number of people dying in those communities,” France said. “And I think their deaths are not finding sympathy in the middle of America. They can go unnoticed. I think we’re going to have a struggle to try and show that these numbers are really people, and that the identities of these people, once revealed, are going to show us how terribly unprepared the American healthcare system is for any of this. But I don’t know if we can get that message out to the Trump space.”

France also confirmed that he's working on a COVID-19 documentary but offered few details.

He suggested the film would explore how the lessons we learned from the AIDS crisis were being applied to today's pandemic. He said that many of the people in charge of the government's response on COVID-19 were also on the front lines of the AIDS crisis, including CDC Director Robert Redfield, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, and Doctor Deborah Birx, who serves as the White House's coronavirus response coordinator.