The Times of Harvey Milk

Director: Rob Epstein


Perhaps the greatest tribute to Harvey Milk, the slain gay-rights activist and subject of Rob Epstein's beautifully constructed and poignant documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, occurs in the contributors' list in the credits. There are the usual foundations and corporations, but most of the funding came from individuals, more than 850 of them. Like all of Milk's political success, the film is the result of a triumphant grassroots effort.
Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in United States history, had been serving on San Francisco's Board of Supervisors only 11 months when he, along with Mayor George Moscone, was assassinated in 1978 by Dan White, a fellow supervisor disillusioned with the constant compromise of city politics and an opponent on gay-rights issues. Harvey Milk interweaves newsreel footage and personal interviews to construct a compelling portrait of these turbulent times: Milk's rise to prominence in the Castro;, Moscone's emphasis on neighborhoods and the subsequent redistricting that allowed Milk to be elected;, his successful fight against Senator John Briggs's inflammatory Proposition 6;, the assassination;, White's trial;, and its violent aftermath. The most moving images depict the massive but reverential candlelight march that followed the shootings, a sharp contrast to the riots after White's infamous Twinkies-defense trial.
The film, which won the Sundance Film Festival's documentary award as well as an Academy Award in 1985, has been painstakingly restored. The UCLA Film and Television Archive repaired damaged sequences and made new video-to-film transfers to strike a pristine, first-time 35 mm print. Composer Mark Isham and director Epstein also assisted in creating a remixed stereo sound track.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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