Sean Penn as Harvey Milk
Photo credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1158042/PETER-HITCHENS-Just-loved-Ivan---Commons-didnt-stop-them.html
This film, for a multiplicity of reasons, should have been right up my street. But it was released in 2008 when, to put it mildly!, I was very ill. I was actually physically present at the preview screening of the film at the BFI as I really wanted to see the film. I was there in body, but not in spirit or in soul. I could not take in or process the film at the time due to my health issues.
Anyway, time has marched on, but I have a renewed interest in, and passion for, campaigning so I decided to belatedly Carpe Diem and watch this film, 4 years after everyone else!
Cut and pasted from Wikipedia:
Milk is a 2008 American biographical film on the life of gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Milk begins on Harvey Milk's 40th birthday (in 1970), when he was living in New York City and had not yet settled in San Francisco. It chronicles his foray into city politics, and the various battles he waged in the Castro neighborhood as well as throughout the city, and political campaigns to limit the rights of gay people in 1977 and 1978 run by Anita Bryant and John Briggs. His romantic and political relationships are also addressed, as is his tenuous affiliation with troubled Supervisor Dan White; the film ends with Dan White's double homicide of Milk and Mayor George Moscone.
Sean Penn won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his portrayal of Harvey Milk.
This is NOT a film review. These are the thoughts that this powerful and moving film prompted in me.
I will say upfront that these real-life events took place in the 70s in San Francisco in the US; I was under 10 at the time and living in the UK. I know nothing about Harvey Milk beyond what is depicted in this film, although as happens with great films, I will now take it upon myself to find out more about him and his campaigns.
With those provisos stated upfront, these are my random thoughts.
- What I liked about this film was that it captured the joy and the free spirit present in the gay community at the time despite the discrimination they suffered and the prejudice they endured. In this way, it spoke about the resilience and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit
- Harvey Milk also showed that in order to get your issues taken on, and ultimately to get into the corridors of power yourself, you needed to foster a sense of community that was inclusive of everyone
- Both the US, and following on its heels the UK, often overly stress the importance of the individual. This film shows the power of community and society
- Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to major office in the US; respect to him for being a pioneer and for that achievement
- It showed that being a pioneer often involves following a very long, hard and lonely road, and making a huge number of personal sacrifices for the greater good; Harvey Milk achieved what he did at great personal cost to himself and to his partners
- It showed the levels of persecution that gays had to endure at the time and just how much bravery it took to out yourself to family and friends, let alone the wider world
- It shows how religion, in this case fundamentalist Christianity, can be totally misused to persecute people; not to put to fine a point on it, I myself would not call those idiots Christians and, if they are, they are giving the rest of us a very bad name!
- I also learnt; if at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again (I am always wont to give up way too easily!)
- It showed the hard work and struggle that people have fought over generations to win the civil liberties that we take for granted
- It taught me never to be afraid of "Standing up and being counted" (so many people are!)
- Harvey Milk, like Gandhi, like Martin Luther King, like Malcolm X, ended up paying the ultimate price; he knew his card was marked and he still carried on; that takes guts
- The US currently has its first Black President. I look forward to the day when it has its first openly gay President, whether man or woman
- Despite the fact that Harvey Milk is assassinated at the end of the film, I found the film uplifting and inspiring; Harvey Milk was always very clear that it was not about him, it was about the greater good and the wider struggle; he wanted "Hope for a better life" and "Hope for a better tomorrow"; because "Without hope, life is not worth living". I concur wholeheartedly.
- I chose the image to accompany the piece very carefully (unfortunately it is from the Daily Mail!). It is uplifting and inspiring; which is what Harvey Milk was, and what this film is.
I am highly recommending this film and you can buy it here: