Sunday, 22 February 2009


To Birmingham's tiny Electric Cinema to see the excellent new film Milk.

This political bio-pic (teensy clue as to why it didn't get into the multiplexes?) tells the story of the final eight years of the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to a major US political office.

Milk, an unassuming San Francisco camera shop owner, finds himself entering local politics almost by accident. But his experience of three pluckily unsuccessful campaigns opens his eyes, ears and heart to fundamental inequalities affecting a whole variety of minority communities: blacks, seniors and, of course, gay people.

His dogged determination to mobilize a city to his equal-rights campaigning gives the film its dramatic momentum.

And much is at stake. Following Milk's election in 1977, 'pro family' campaigners sponsor the notorious Proposition 6 statewide referendum.

Were it to succeed, legislation would lead not only to the dismissal of all homosexual teachers in California, but also to the sacking of any school-system employee who supports a gay teacher facing dismissal. In the event the referendum is a close-run contest.

As often happens, extraordinary circumstances draw extraordinary courage from ordinary people.

Director Gus van Sant brilliantly charts Milk's growth into a leader of remarkable grace, charisma and dignity.

Sadly, the film is also a tragedy, ending with Milk's murder, in San Francisco's City Hall, by a political rival.

'My name is Harvey Milk - and I'm here to recruit you' is his signature opening to every campaign speech. Indifference, not oppostion, is his greatest enemy.

Consequently, as well as being funny, charming and moving, this is a very uncomfortable film.

Milk couldn't stand by and let ordinary fellow-citizens go without a voice, simply because of a perceived, yet utterly irrelevant, 'difference'.

Plenty to think about as another Lent begins....

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

Agree, it was a very moving film.

If you get the chance to see the 1985, Oscar winning documentary, 'The Times of Harvey Milk', do so.