DVD review – The Times of Harvey Milk (1984), Region 4, Shock

Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk

This 1984 Academy Award winning documentary by Rob Epstein (The Celluloid Closet) is a stirring testament to civil rights campaigner Harvey Milk and a superb companion piece to the recent Gus Van Sant film Milk. However The Times of Harvey Milk delves much further into the political and social significance of what Milk did and what he stood for. Milk was an openly gay man who campaigned on behalf of all minorities. Combining an abundance of archival footage and insightful interviews, Epstein reveals how Milk’s presence in City Hall allowed the “little people” of San Francisco to finally feel connected to the political process.

Epstein includes substantial information about Dan White, the ex-colleague who assassinated both Milk and Mayor George Moscone. The final portion of the documentary examines the aftermath of the assassinations and how people responded to White’s absurdly light sentence. Epstein also presents an analysis into why Milk’s reasoned and compassionate stance on gay rights was so feared by the moral majority. This is a thoughtful and moving documentary with a second disc of excellent bonus features about Milk, the film’s original release and the White verdict. 

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 324, 2009

© Thomas Caldwell, 2009

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