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)

Please Share This:

Share

The Times of Harvey Milk: A Documentary Portrait of Communities in Conflict

The Times of Harvey Milk: A Documentary Portrait of Communities in Conflict

Prologue: A Historic Struggle of Communities in Conflict

The acclaimed bio-documentary Milk, for which Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black won, respectively, 2009 Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Screenplay, was Director Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of the emotionally-powerful powerful The Times of Harvey Milk, the 1984 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature Film. I remember seeing The Times of Harvey Milk at a small East Village theater one wintry night in 1985, during a year that I was spending in New York City doing a pre-doctoral internship in clinical psychology. I also recall feeling emotionally stunned after leaving that theater, walking through the East and West Village just to remind myself how much more freedom gay and lesbian people seemed to enjoy since the previous years that I had lived in the village, during the mid-1960’s.

For generations of gay people, myself included, Harvey Milk has been a hero, martyr, inspiration and role model. As our country’s first openly gay elected official, Milk made a national impact after being elected to San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, from his battles against a statewide proposition that would have made it illegal for gay people to be schoolteachers in California, to his call for gays and lesbians to come out of the closet. He once famously stated that, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” Harvey waged an amazing, successful battle against Anita Bryant’s national anti-gay crusade in California, not knowing that it would be one of his last great acts before his tragic assassination. And if his assassination didn’t quite accomplish the lofty goal of opening every closet door, it certainly made a difference in the lives of millions of people.

Hollywood’s new re-telling of Harvey Milk’s story has made it possible for the impact of Milk’s life and his untiring community organizing efforts to have an effect not only upon straight audiences, but also on the new generations of young gay persons who might never have heard of him. And in particular, it brings into sharp relief Harvey Milk’s war against California’s Proposition 6, especially crucial for our present-day confrontations with California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage. California’s Proposition 6, more commonly known as The Briggs Initiative, was an initiative on the California State ballot on November 7th, 1978. The initiative would have banned gays and lesbians, and even possibly any person who supported gay rights, from working in California’s public schools. Hurting from recent civil rights losses in other parts of the nation, the gay and lesbian community quickly organized a statewide campaign against Proposition 6.

While Van Sant’s Milk reconstructs Harvey Milk’s successful organizing battle against Prop 6, it is no match for watching the actual Harvey Milk and his colleagues in their grassroots political action in The Times of Harvey Milk. A huge coalition of predominantly progressive community-based activists was formed into a campaign led by Gwen Craig and Bill Krause, who were appointed to their positions by San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, teacher (and later Supervisor of the SF Board of Supervisors) Tom Ammiano, activist Hank Wilson and many others. Rallying under the slogan “Come out! Come out! Wherever you are!”, the campaign mobilized and quickly gained immense statewide momentum to defeat the initiative. Former Governor Ronald Reagan, later President, eventually moved to publicly oppose the measure. Gerald Ford, and (at the end of the campaign) then-President Jimmy Carter also came out with public opposition to the bill.

In what became the “No on 6” campaign, gay men, lesbians and their supporters went door-to-door in cities and towns across the state to talk about the harm the initiative would cause. Gay men and lesbians came out to their families, their neighbors and their co-workers, spoke in their churches and community centers, sent letters to their local editors, and otherwise revealed to the general population that gay people really were “everywhere” and included people they already knew and cared about. At the beginning of September, the ballot measure was ahead in public-opinion polls, with about 61% of voters supporting it, while only 31% opposed it. But just a month later, the Briggs Initiative ended up being defeated by more than one million votes, with 58.4% voting against Proposition 6, compared to just 41.6% in favor. It represented the largest shift of public opinion that had ever been recorded within such a short time frame.

Please do yourself the huge favor of taking the time to watch this full version of the extremely valuable documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. You’ll find that this classic portrait of communities in conflict is a stunning reminder of what many of us are still facing today. Our most urgent present-day struggles are reflected in this film’s original, dramatic account of Harvey Milk’s grass-roots political organizing and election, through the shocking murders and their repercussion, from the eloquent candle-light memorial joined by tens of thousands of San Franciscans on the evening of the assassinations, to the rage of angry crowds in the aftermath of the lenient sentence Dan White received at his murder trial.

The Times of Harvey Milk: A Documentary Portrait

Before there was this year’s 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 recently 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.

What follows here is the Official 1984 Trailer for The Times of Harvey Milk, videos of the network murder reports and the candlelight memorial march. In addition, it presents the full-length version of this celebrated documentary feature film, as well as a rare photo-gallery of vintage photographs of Harvey Milk and San Francisco during the social era of the mid-1960’s and 70s.

News Report: The Murders of Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk

The Times of Harvey Milk: The Candlelight Funeral Rites

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

Slide Show: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk

(Please Click on Image to View Slide Show)

Please Share This:

Share

Sean Penn Wins Best Actor for Milk: My Name is Sean Penn, and I’m Here to Recruit You

Penn Wins Best Actor for Milk: My Name is Sean Penn and I’m Here to Recruit You

You Commie, Homo-Loving Sons of Guns

Sean Penn won the Academy Award for Best Actor Sunday night for his moving portrayal of slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk in Milk. He earned a standing ovation from the starry crowd as his wife, Robin Wright Penn, tearfully looked on. “You commie, homo-loving sons of guns,” Penn began in accepting his award for Milk. “I did not expect this and I want it to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often.” Penn had already won the Screen Actors Guild and Critics Choice awards, as well as numerous honors from film critics groups across the country. The 48-year-old actor had deeply immersed himself in order to act the role of Harvey Milk, culminating in a stellar performance that brought out a warmth and sweetness rarely seen throughout Penn’s acting career, often marked by intense, complex characters.

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to major public office in the United States when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. The following year, he was shot to death, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by board colleague Dan White. But during his life, he inspired gays and lesbians to stand up and come out, helping to turn San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood into the gay mecca and safe haven that it would become. He roused cheering crowds with impassioned speeches that often began with the words, “My name is Harvey Milk, and I am here to recruit you.”

In wrapping up his own acceptance speech at The Academy Awards ceremony, Penn mentioned the protesters who had lined the streets of Hollywood near the Oscar festivities, holding anti-gay signs: “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.” Backstage, when asked what he would tell those protesters if he could speak to them, Penn responded: “I’d tell them to turn in their hate card and find their better self.”

Sean Penn Wins Best Actor Academy Award for “Milk”

Dustin Lance Black Wins Academy Award for Best Screenplay for “Milk”

The Story of Harvey Milk Gave Me Hope to Live My Life

In addition to Sean Penn’s Oscar, Dustin Lance Black won The Academy Award for Best Screenplay for Milk. Black, who was wearing The White Knot for marriage equality, gave an eloquent acceptance speech about how Harvey Milk had personally inspired him:

When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas, to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life; it gave me the hope that one day I could live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married.

Most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than by their churches, or by the government, or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what everyone tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours.” Dustin Black’s sometimes tearful acceptance speech was greeted by the Academy audience members with loud applause.

Dustin Lance Black Wins Oscar for Best Screenplay for “Milk”

Harvey Milk Takes Oath of Office after Winning 1977 San Francisco Election

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Academy Award Documentary: The Times Of Harvey Milk

Please Share This:

Share

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Gus Van Sant’s Discipline of Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Over the years, Gus Van Sant has become one of the premiere modern-day story tellers about the burdens of social and emotional dysfunction, assembling for his films a parade of hustlers, junkies, psychopathic weather girls and troubled geniuses to wander and stumble across the stage as fascinating displays for his film’s audiences. I have always found it to be a curiosity that in his increasingly popular films seemingly about sex, sexuality and wishes for emotional attachment in the lives of those living on society’s outer fringes (for example, Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and Milk), there is in fact a puzzling lack of real sexuality, sensuality or emotional intimacy between the main characters.

It appears that Van Sant presents his audiences with charades of sensuality and intimacy, directing his actors to perform as though they were emotionally engaged, when in fact they are not. Van Sant has adopted the very same vacant voyeuristic stance that was so characteristic for two of his main filmmaking heroes, William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol.

Gus Van Sant’s 1978 short-film adaptation of William Burrough’s essay/short story Do Easy (DE) provides a clear example of the projection of Van Sant’s own psychology spilling over into the area of relational impairment. Most short reviews of Van Sant’s adaptation, The Discipline of Do Easy, blithely describe the film as an offbeat “instructional” little film about living in the easiest, most relaxed way we can. Some even say that the short film is filled with great advice that’s very zen-like in nature. A quirky and fun film to watch.

But let’s have another take on what goes on in Do Easy. Van Sant’s advice centers upon themes of collecting, measuring, counting, cleaning, repetition and “magical” undoing. He describes Doing Easy as a WAY of doing, but the doing is in fact constantly being alert to things, a never-ending vigilant observance of potentially dangerous objects, even within the small world of one’s very own apartment. Doing Easy yields neither an easy nor relaxed life, but rather an obsessive-compulsive pathology, most clearly manifested in a socially deadly form of isolation of affect.

Thinking and observing are separated from and take the place of real emotional relationships with others. And that is what is so characteristic of his major films about society’s outsiders. In this particular short film, Doing Easy doesn’t lead one to a relaxed sense of attachment to or closeness with others, but rather in the end it provokes the fearful destruction of others.

Do Easy: The Destruction of Emotional Intimacy

Please Bookmark This:

Share

Harvey Milk: Without Hope, Life is Not Worth Living

Harvey Milk: Without Hope, Life is Not Worth Living

The Life and times of Harvey Milk

In the 1970s, psychiatry and psychology still classified homosexuality as a mental illness. In recent history, in an otherwise entirely routine case, the Supreme Court refused in 1978 to overturn the prison sentence of a man convicted solely of having consensual sex with another man. And only one year before, the court had let stand the firing of an outstanding Tacoma, Washington, teacher who had made the mistake of telling the truth when his principal asked him whether he was a homosexual. No real national gay organization existed, and Vice-President Walter Mondale haughtily left a speech in 1977 after someone asked him when President Carter’s Administration would speak in favor of gay equality.

To be young and to realize that you were gay or lesbian in the 1970s was to anticipate that your entire adulthood would be shackled with constant fears of personal discovery, with your life marked as a long and isolated, elusively secretive journey, with dim career prospects, and with some of your closest personal relationships fearfully concealed behind darkened bar windows.

No single person could change all of that, and not all of the changes have been accomplished even today. But a few powerful figures gave gay and lesbian individuals the confidence they needed to stop lying, and none understood how his public role could affect private lives better than Harvey Milk. People told Harvey Milk that no openly gay man could win political office. Fortunately, he ignored their advice. And after Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the world, thousands of astounded people wrote to Milk thanking him for finally giving them a chance to emerge from the shadows of mankind and to join the human race.

There was a time when it was impossible for people, either straight or gay, even to imagine a person like Harvey Milk. After he defied San Francisco’s ruling class to become an elected member of its Board of Supervisors in 1977, people had to begin adjusting to the new reality that he embodied, that a gay person could live an honest life and succeed. That laborious adjustment continues to trudge on, although with each gay and lesbian character who emerges on television, with every well-known person who takes the brave step out of the shadows to openly declare his/her gay or lesbian identity, and with every presidential speech to a gay group, an eventual outcome favoring equality seems more and more possible.

Harvey Milk knew that a root cause of the gay predicament was invisibility. He suspected that emotional trauma was the worst enemy to gay and lesbian persons, and particularly for those who were in the closet, and who probably still constitute a majority of the gay world. That was what made the election of an openly gay person, not just a sympathetic straight ally, symbolically so crucial. “You gotta give them hope,” Milk always said.

Not everyone cheered, of course, and death threats multiplied. Milk often spoke of his inevitable assassination, even recording a will naming acceptable successors to his seat and containing the famous line: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.” Two bullets finally did enter his brain. On November 27th, 1978, in San Francisco’s City Hall, where Mayor George Moscone was also killed.

Fellow Supervisor Daniel White, a troubled anti-gay conservative, had left the board, and had become mentally deranged when Mayor Moscone denied his request to return. White admitted the murders within hours, and at trial a jury gave him just five years in prison with parole. Defense lawyers had barred anyone remotely pro-gay from the jury and had brought a psychologist to testify that “junk food” had exacerbated White’s pre-existing depression.

While he was alive, Harvey Milk’s words had been able to averted gay riots before. But after the trial verdict was announced, the city of San Francisco erupted, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets and more than 160 persons ending up in the hospital. Harvey Milk’s killing has been said to have awakened as many gay people as his actual election to office had. His death inspired many associates who later envisioned one of the greatest works of American folk art, the AIDS quilt. But while his assassination offered Milk empathy from mainstream America, something that was then rare for openly gay men, it would have been thrilling to see how far he could have gone as a leader. He had sworn off going to gay bathhouses when he entered public life, and he may have eluded the virus that killed so many of his contemporaries. He might have been able to help guide gay America through the confused beginnings of the AIDS horror.

Instead, Harvey Milk remains a historic figure who is frozen in time, a symbol of what gays can accomplish, but also of the treacherous and mortal dangers that they face in trying to do so.

Harvey Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

Milk: A Biographical Motion Picture

The new biographical motion picture, Milk, is directed by Gus Van Sant, who also directed My Own Private Idaho (with Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix) and Good Will Hunting (the breakout movie for Matt Damon and Ben Affleck). Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk, with James Franco playing his life partner, Scott Smith, and the Josh Brolin as Dan White, Milk’s eventual killer. The Oscar-winning filmmaker’s character study of the life of Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay politician, is being described as big, brash, bold, and already looking like it will be a major contender in the motion picture awards season. If this first trailer is anything to go by, Gus Van Sant’s Milk is going to be a big movie that takes on big issues in contemporary American life.

Milk: You’ve Got to Give Them Hope

A Historic Documentary: The Times of Harvey Milk

TechnoratiTechnorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Please Share This:

Share

%d bloggers like this: