Photo courtesy of GAT Productions.
For a lot of queer cinephiles, Milk (not that cowboy thing) was the real breakout gay movie of the new millennium. Here, finally, was a story about an out gay man whose homosexuality wasn’t depicted as some tragic problem, but rather as a completely normal part of his life. More than that, it helped re-affirm the legacy of one of the great heroes of the gay-rights movement, one of the first openly gay elected official in the United States, and a man who helped pioneer the idea that the most important political action any gay person can take is to come out of the closet. Sean Penn’s brilliant performance matched with James Franco’s smoldering mustache certainly didn’t hurt matters either. And so, Inside Out‘s decision to screen Academy Award–winning 1984 documentary The Times of Harvey Milk is a very smart piece of programming.
Debates have raged among Milk devotees as to whether the doc or Gus Van Sant’s biopic is the superior film, but we think they complement each other beautifully. A look at footage of Harvey Milk and his colleagues gives you a real appreciation for Milk‘s highly accurate art design and over-all aesthetic, but The Times also has more room for exploring the historical context of the so-called “Mayor of Castro Street’s” significance. Most notably, the documentary explores the trial of Dan White, and the White Night Riots that followed his bizarrely lenient sentencing. Perhaps the most startling moment in the film comes when you realize you are watching the actual police footage of Dan White being arrested after assassinating Milk and Mayor Moscone. In that moment, you realize that Gus Van Sant’s Milk ended in tragedy not, unlike some other recent gay-themed films, because that’s how you end a queer narrative, but because Harvey Milk’s own life really was cut tragically short. How different might the world be today were this not the case.
The Times of Harvey Milk screens at 5:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader.