Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Harvey Milk Day 2011: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Although California is presently the only state with an official Harvey Milk Day, cities all across the country will be holding rallies and events today to honor the first openly gay man to be elected to public office and an icon of the gay-rights movement. Milk, who would have been 81 years-old, gave us his life 32 years ago, knowing that the first of any civil rights movement, who clearly and loudly proclaim their right to equality, most often meets a violent and sudden end. Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He fought to end discrimination against gays and lesbians and built coalitions of gay-rights groups, labor unions and small-business owners. He was 48 when he was killed a year later by a former supervisor, Dan White.

The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary film, won the 1984 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. The movie Milk, was released in 2008, directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn as Milk and Josh Brolin as Dan White. Milk received two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. In August 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contribution to the gay rights movement stating, “He fought discrimination with visionary courage and conviction.”

Harvey Milk: The Candlelight Funeral Rites

A Documentary on Harvey Milk: 575 Castro St.

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Before there was the Academy Awards celebrated Milk, there was the widely acclaimed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film in 1984, and was awarded The Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, among other awards. The documentary chronicles the political career of Harvey Milk, who was San Francisco’s first openly gay elected Board Supervisor. The film, at times humorous, at times nostalgic, and at other times quite tragic, tells the story of Harvey Milk’s rise to political power and emergence as a symbol of gay political achievement.

The Times of Harvey Milk documents through assembled historic film clips the tumultuous story of Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussions. It takes the film’s viewers along with the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the scenes of angry crowds who stormed San Francisco’s City Hall in the aftermath of the lenient sentence that Dan White received at his murder trial.

This Academy Award-winning documentary feature film depicts not only Harvey Milk himself, but also the political and social milieu of the era in which he lived. From this perspective, the film continues to have significant relevance for our nation today, standing as a classic portrait of communities and cultural values in severe conflict. The film was produced subsequent to Harvey Milk’s death using archival footage, so that Milk is credited posthumously as the lead actor. Other politicians, including San Francisco’s then-mayor George Moscone (who was assassinated along with Milk) and Moscone’s successor and now United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, also appear in the archival footage. Also featured in the film is then-schoolteacher Tom Ammiano, who has been a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors since 1994, and was elected to the California State Assembly. The film’s outstanding narration is provided by the acclaimed stage and screen actor Harvey Fierstein, who at that time had just achieved great success with his own Tony Award-winning Broadway play Torch Song Trilogy.

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Full Version of the Documentary

Slide Show:The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image Above to View Slide Show)

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575 Castro Street: It’s About Giving Young People Hope

575 Castro Street: It’s About Giving Young People Hope

575 Castro St. is an extremely moving short film by Jenni Olson, set in the Castro Camera Store where Harvey Milk lived and worked during the late 1970’s.  The sensibility of 575 Castro St. hearkens back to the style of the dozens of Super 8 gay short films of the 1970s that passed through Harvey Milk’s hands to be processed and developed at the Castro Camera Store.  The film is especially poignant in light of the recent suicide of Tyler Clementi, as well as the suicides of other young people.  This film was shot with audio of Harvey Milk from a 1977 recording, outlining Harvey’s wishes in the event of his assassination.

575 Castro St. reveals the play of light and shadow upon the walls of the Castro Camera Store set for Gus Van Sant’s film Milk.  The mundane shots are almost bereft of movement and sound.  So quiet, so still.  All the better to showcase the range of emotions evoked by Harvey Milk’s words on the soundtrack.  He concludes his comments by telling listeners that the gay movement, or his efforts as a part of that movement, is mainly about giving young people hope.  And that message remains an ever so important one today: “You gotta’ give them hope.”

575 Castro Street: It’s About Giving Young People Hope

Harvey Milk: You Gotta’ Give Them Hope

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