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.
Milk is a civil rights film about Harvey Milk, a prominent American gay rights activist in the 1970s who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California. Harvey’s story of overcoming bigotry and prejudice to inspire others and effect change evokes the better-known stories of African American civil rights activists who fought different types of persecution. As a member of the gay and lesbian community Harvey faced particular challenges. Police brutality, fear of violence, death threats, suicide and anti-homosexual hysteria fuelled by the religious right were all aspects of Harvey’s life. Milk is also a fascinating examination of the political process and it is a lot of fun witnessing Harvey’s transformation from hedonistic hippy into a slick, media savvy orator.