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75 of 77 found the following review helpful:
His life, his legacy; our hopeJun 13, 2004
By James Hiller
I was one of the millions who probably heard of Harvey Milk at some point in my life, but never connected any dots to his life. Then one summer day, while housesitting, I found an old VHS tape of this documentary called "The Times of Harvey Milk". Not having anything better to do, I popped it in the VCR and sat back to watch. Two hours later, my life, perspectives, and outlooks were dramatically transformed by meeting Supervisor Harvey Milk. So it is with great excitement that this monumental film which pays tribute to a monumental time finally comes to DVD, and warrants my attention for my 200th review.
"The Times of Harvey Milk" is a transformative documentary both in style and information, created by visionary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Richard Schmiechen. The film not only covers the life of Milk, but the times which surrounded him that allows for a broader, more in-depth story. From the opening moments of the film, we learn of Harvey's untimely death, so as not to aggrandize it. Through personal interviews, newsreel coverage, and personal film shot at certain events, everything is brought to a real, intense focus. You feel as if you are watching the events unfold as San Franscians must have done in the late 1970's.
The shining stars of the film are the personal interviews given by people who knew Harvey best. Tom Ammiano, friend of Harvey, gives the film a sense of outrage of the assassinations. Jim Elliot gives a heartwarming straight man, unionist perspective to show us Harvey's universality. Henry Der allows us to see Harvey's political side. Jannine Yeoman's covering of the Milk campaign and post -assassination trial gives a sense of immediacy and urgency to the story, and a more professional viewpoint. Bill Kraus, a gay activist, soon to die of AIDS, provided a sense of Milk's activism.
A couple of interviewee struck me personally. First, lesbian activist Sally Gearheart's testimony of her work with Milk on the Proposition 6 campaign is very compelling, but her comments on the candlelight vigil and riots following the verdict are particularly poignant. Anne Kronenberg, who served as Milk's campaign manager, provides the zeal and optimism of the youth who surrounded and supported Milk in his efforts. Last comes Tory Hartmann, who's warmth on the screen is only seconded by her connection with Harvey. She provides an emotional recollection of the candlelight march that will leave you in tears.
Coming to DVD, this film looks rich and new, due to UCLA and its preservation processes. In addition to the film, the DVD brings you a second disk loaded with special features, from interviews with the film makers, to an 25th anniversary update of the Milk legacy by those who knew him best. I was particularly touched watching the "Alternate ending" section, in which Jim Elliot discloses, after describing his own journey as a straight man accepting homosexual Harvey Milk, learns his own daughter is also a lesbian, and that it was all okay, thereby completing validating Milk's thoughts on coming out.
Not enough words can be said about "The Times of Harvey Milk", a visionary, compelling documentary that should be shown, shared with everyone across this country. Milk's legacy is not only for his homosexual brothers and sisters; it is a legacy for all of us. His legacy is that of tolerance towards all, peaceful protest, fighting for what you believe in, and above all else, just having the best time of your life.
20 of 22 found the following review helpful:
The Fight Before the StormNov 10, 2005
By Richard Brennan
That Harvey Milk's election to the San Francisco city council made him the first openly gay elected official in the country certainly justifies this documentary look at his life and career. The fact that this political event coincides with the ascendancy of Anita Bryant, the Moral Majority, and California's controversial Proposition 6 (which sought to make it illegal to employ any gay person as a teacher in the state's public school systems) gives the film a nail-biting second act. But add the fact that Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by fellow council person Dan White, and you have a riveting truth is stranger than fiction psycho-political drama. The scenes and remembrances of the spontaneous candlelight march from the Castro to City Hall by thousands of citizens are moving and speak of a grief and loss that goes deeper than words. The film goes on to document the Dan White trial, the "Twinkie Defense", and the violent reaction to verdict. Unfortunately, you can't view the film today without realizing that at the time these interviews were being filmed, AIDS was already invisibly working its way through the community and would soon all but wipe out this generation of gay men in San Francisco. That's a different story, I know (see Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt ), but it's like watching happy passengers board the Titanic, talking about a future that you know will never happen for many of them.
13 of 14 found the following review helpful:
Unknown to me, till now...Jan 21, 2005
By M. Miller
As I browsed my local library DVD collection I stumbled upon this film and was curious, because I had never heard of Harvey Milk or the tragic story surrounding his political career.
For those of you who do not know, Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in the US (he was a Supervisor for San Francisco.) His time in office had many highlights; however, a fellow Supervisor assassinated him after Milk served only 11-months in office.
Yes, this is a documentary, and although the story is built with tragedy in mind one must remember the good that Milk built upon. His policies helped more then just the gay community, and it is disheartening to see that his story is not more prominently featured.
This was a nice DVD in general, and as documentaries go it is fairly good quality. This is a intriguing and well-done film that all should see, and may it make you a little more aware like it did me.
13 of 14 found the following review helpful:
We will NEVER forget Harvey Milk!!!May 26, 2004
By John Whitley
On DVD at last!!!!!!! Saw this movie on PBS years ago, and I cried and cried. Harvey Milk SHOULD have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize even AFTER his death because black/white/(gay)/straight/WHATEVER, Harvey was a man of the PEOPLE - caring, compassionate, genuine. Who knows, if he hadn't been murdered, MAYBE we'd be voting for President Milk this November.
Buy this DVD, remember Harvey, and give thanks that there were (and still ARE!) wonderful people like him who fought for the rights of EVERYONE in our (gay) community.
BLESS you Harvey, you have become a LEGEND!!!
8 of 8 found the following review helpful:
Essential historical documentaryJun 17, 2006
By Charles - Music Lover
Robert Epstein and Richard Schmiechen have crafted an eloquent and touching documentary that brings to life a historically important political figure in our nation's history: Harvey Milk, the first openly gay public elected official in San Francisco. Milk, together with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, were assassinated in November 1978.
The film does not concentrate on a biographical portrait of Milk, but instead focuses on the eleven months he served as San Francisco supervisor. It brings life to history, albeit recent history, a quality that is lacking in so many historical documentaries. What makes this possible, in many ways, is the ample news footage that was available to trace the events that comprised those eleven months, and the personal commentary provided by witnesses and participants of the events documented. The additional footage and audio commentary that comprises this 2-DVD set sheds more light on the Harvey Milk legacy. Milk was a politician by nature, much in the same way as John Kennedy was, but without the money. It shows how much a charasmatic figure can accomplish when the mission seems clear. Milk's humor, candor, and intelligence shines through.
I first saw this film in the late 1980s on public television, and saw it a few times since. Watching it today, what shocked me the most is that Dan White, who served a little more than five years for the slayings, received no psychiatric treatment while incarcerated. White's defense attorney stated quite clearly in news footage that White was a suicide risk the day the verdict was announced. White killed himself less than two years after his release. I am clearly no apologist for Dan White, but he was failed by the very system that awarded him his freedom a scant five years after killing two men.
Milk was elected to public office in the few years after the notion of the "personal is political" became popular. Milk exemplified and capitalized on this notion brilliantly. What Milk's legacy shows me, today, is that personal authenticity is the most essential quality needed in our public officials. Integrity and intelligence springs from authenticity, as does clarity of purpose. And a sense of wit and humor is the second most essential quality. Milk possessed both.
P.S.: I thought of this after I originally posted my review. Milk was assassinated a few short years before the AIDS epidemic emerged as a public health threat within, and outside of, the gay community. Had Milk been on the scene at the time, I have no doubt he would have used his office and political power to the greatest extent possible to affect legislation and government accountibility in their response to the epidemic. His death really altered the course of history.
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