Milk

MILK IS A BIOPIC OF THE MAN WHO MOBILIZED THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT
The election of Harvey Milk as San Francisco Supervisor in 1977 was of the first openly gay American politician of stature. The film Milk begins with a montage of documentaries about police hostility to gays, including the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969. In 1970, Milk (played by Sean Penn) concludes on his fortieth birthday that he needs to accomplish something worthwhile in his life. Accordingly, in 1972 he moves from New York to San Francisco to start anew, and he buys a camera shop on Castro that soon becomes a hub of gay activism as he organizes gays to boycott businesses where they encounter hostility and reward those found friendly. His first success is a boycott of an openly gay-hostile business, Coor’s Beer. He then runs for office but loses thrice until his election in 1977. He goes on to mobilize a defeat of the Briggs Initiative on the California ballot in 1978 that would have sanctioned firing gay teachers and their friends, thereby stopping a gay backlash initiated by Anita Bryant’s campaign to repeal gay rights laws, starting in Miami. Meanwhile, Supervisor Dan White (played by Josh Brolin), whom Milk intuits is a latent homosexual, goes through a personal crisis, presumably about the success of the gay movement, drinks heavily, resigns from the Board of Supervisor, and assassinates Mayor George Moscone (played by Victor Garber) when the latter fails to reappoint him to the Board. The film features many episodes where Milk’s mobilization efforts, including the campaign to have gays “come out,” appear to say that rights are gained through confrontation. Kissing and bedroom scenes stop short of sex scenes but make the point that gay rights are about life, not just about issues. The Political Film Society has nominated Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant, as best film exposé and best film on democracy as well as human rights of 2008. MH