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Times of Harvey Milk

The Times of Harvey Milk

4.2 5
Director: Robert Epstein

Cast: Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk


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A documentary portrait of San Francisco's first openly gay politician, city supervisor Harvey Milk, The Times of Harvey Milk might not have been made but for the tragic circumstances of Milk's death. On November 27, 1978, Dan White, a former city supervisor who was desperate to regain his post, entered City Hall with a gun and murdered both San Francisco's


A documentary portrait of San Francisco's first openly gay politician, city supervisor Harvey Milk, The Times of Harvey Milk might not have been made but for the tragic circumstances of Milk's death. On November 27, 1978, Dan White, a former city supervisor who was desperate to regain his post, entered City Hall with a gun and murdered both San Francisco's mayor, George Moscone, and Milk. At the trial, White's lawyer skillfully turned the jury's attention away from his client's public anti-gay statements to focus on White's spotless record and his extremely agitated mental state on the day of the murders. White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to a relatively brief jail term, sparking a demonstration and riot by gay supporters of the murdered men. The film considers Milk's accomplishments and his exceptional popularity; this is not an objective look at a man, but a celebration of a martyr. Winner of an Academy award for Best Documentary Feature, The Times of Harvey Milk was released while White was serving his sentence; he was paroled in 1984 and committed suicide the next year. Epstein's other major efforts included the documentaries Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (1989) (about the AIDS epidemic) and The Celluloid Closet (1995), about images of gay men and women in Hollywood films.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Tom Wiener
It is impossible to separate the accomplishments of San Francisco politician Harvey Milk from the implications of his tragic death, and filmmaker Robert Epstein and his colleagues don't even try. By virtue of his being openly gay, Milk attracted a lot of attention in a city allegedly famous for its tolerance of alternative lifestyles, but Epstein makes it clear that attention wasn't unanimously positive. The film shows how Milk became a transition figure; it wasn't enough that he was the first openly gay politician in the city, but that he had to become a victim of anti-gay sentiment, personified by Dan White, to become a national symbol of intolerance. Epstein shows how Milk's supporters went from an attitude of "Look how far we've come" after he was elected, to "Look how far we have to go" after he was murdered -- and especially after White's virtual acquittal. It's a story of triumph that is also quite melancholy, and Mark Isham's lovely music underscores that sentiment.

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Special Features

Audio commentary featuring director Robert Epstein, coeditor Deborah Hoffmann, and photographer Daniel Nicoletta ; Interview clips not used in the film; New interview with documentary filmmaker Jon Else; New program about The Times of Harvey Milk and Gus Van Sant's Milk, featuring Epstein, Van Sant, actor James Franco, and Milk friends Cleve Jones, Anne Kronenberg, and Nicoletta ; Rare collection of audio and video recordings of Milk ; Excerpts from Epstein's research tapes, featuring Milk partner Scott Smith; Footage from the film's Castro Theatre premiere and the 1984 academy awards ; Panel discussion on supervisor Dan White's trial; Excerpts from the twenty-fifth anniversary commemoration of Milk's and Mayor George Moscone's assassinations ; Original theatrical trailer

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The Times of Harvey Milk 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
poughkeepsiejohn More than 1 year ago
Watching Gus Van Zant's remarkable film "Milk", I was struck by how good Sean Penn was at playing Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man ever elected to a political office in America. Yet, as great as Penn was, the real Harvey Milk was smaller, thinner and had more of an East Coast accent (he was from New York). So, when you watch "The Times Of Harvey Milk", you'll be surprised at how enigmatic, charismatic and knowledable Harvey really was. You'll also be awestruck as to how Dan White really does look like Josh Brolin. In the late 1960's, Harvey Milk, who had known he was gay since he was a teenager, quit his Wall Street job, grew his hair long and went to San Francisco, a city that openly embraced the burgeoning gay culture at the time. He opened a camera store and ran for city office several times---finally winning a position on the Board Of Supervisors in 1977. The Mayor at that time was George Moscone, the son of a San Quentin prison guard, who saw the greatness in the diversity of his city's people. Also winning a position on the board was Dan White, a former boxer and ex-police officer who believed that San Francisco was not becoming a safe place for "decent people" to live in. Robert Epstein's film spends a lot of time looking at what would be Harvey's greatest moment: the defeat of Proposition 6 or The Briggs Initiative, a law which would have made it perfectly legal for schools to fire teachers who they believed were gay. Many felt the law would pass by a wide margin. In the fall of 1978, a time when gay laws were being struck down repeatedly, Proposition 6 failed. A few days later, White, frustrated by the burdens of his job resigned from the Board of Supervisors. He tried to get his job back but Mayor Mascone refused. In November 1978, White assassinated both Mayor George Mascone and Harvey Milk at San Francisco City Hall. Epstein's film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1984 and it certainly did its part in shattering the stereotypes most of us probably associate with gay culture. What's remarkable about this film is that it starts out being about gays but it ends up being a cry for much-needed changes in our justice system. You also walk away with the feeling that Milk and Moscone truly did their part in making San Francisco a better and more fascinating place. And sad to say, Harvey Milk's dream of true equality still remains unfulfilled.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Award winning documentary of the life of San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a masterpiece! Just as relevant today as it was 20+ years ago. Milk's message and conviction can never be underestimated. I have used this video in an undergraduate course I teach, 'The Literature of Social Protest,' and am moved by my students' reactions as much as they are to the film itself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although this film is twenty years old, it's not dated and it seems fresh with each additional viewing. Gay or straight, it's impossible not to be moved by this masterpiece. A timely film during a year when the ultraright is trying to turn gay marriage into a presidential litmus test.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a waste of time, one star is too many