Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1984. Black Sand Productions, Pacific Arts, UCLA Film and Television Archive. Narration by Judith Coburn, Carter Wilson. Cinematography by Frances Reid. Produced by Rob Epstein, Richard Schmiechen. Music by Mark Isham. Production Design by Michael McNeil. Film Editing by Rob Epstein, Deborah Hoffmann. Boston Film Critics Awards 1984. New York Film Critics Awards 1984. Academy Awards 1984.
Superb documentary about the assassination of two politicians and the subsequent joke of a murder trial that followed. Harvey Milk was a San Francisco councilman on the city’s board of supervisors who was also the first openly gay politician in that position or any of prominence in the country. In November of 1978, he and Mayor George Moscone were killed by fellow supervisor Dan White for reasons linked to White’s own mental health as well as his frustrations with his political career. The light manslaughter sentence that was handed to the shooter in the trial that followed had the San Francisco gay community see red, with justifiable protests against a system that saw the killing of a gay man as less important than anyone else’s. Rob Epstein’s superb film goes through Milk’s career, from his early days of campaigning for the rights of the city’s gay community until his very last, revealing his hard work to get recognition for gays and lesbians by the government during a time of immense conservative oppression (Anita Bryant and bills to ban gay teachers among the issues at the time). Heartbreaking and informative, Epstein would only ever equal it with his powerful Common Threads five years later.