Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Times of Harvey Milk

Release Date: 1984
Production Company: Black Sands Productions
Director: Rob Epstein and Richard Schmiechen
Run time: 90 minutes
Seen on: FLIXe Channel
Recommended: Yes, interesting and powerful
Watch NOW:

The Times of Harvey Milk is a documentary about the political life and assassination of the California's first openly gay elected official.  He won a seat on the San Franscisco Board of Supervisors in 1977.  This story was also the basis for the 2008 film, Milk, starring Sean Penn as the titular character.

The doc was released in 1984, only 6 years after the assassinations.  The film begins with news footage announcing the assassination of Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone by councilman Dan White.  While some documentaries might leave this information until later in the film, this event was such a significant cultural event. 

The film combines interviews with friends and colleagues, photographs, and news footage.  The film is also tied together by the narration of Harvey Fierstein.  Some of the most interesting interviews are with union supporters.  The gentleman interviewed didn't think he would like Milk.  But Milk stood not only for gay rights, but for the rights of all minorities: Chinese, senior citizens, and working class unions.

The most powerful image of the documentary was of a candlelight walk after the assassinations.  There were candles in the dark across a wide avenue as far as you could see.  "It was one of the most eloquent expressions of a community's response to violence I've ever seen."

"Without hope, the us's give up.  I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it life is not worth living.  And you, and you, and you, you've gotta give 'em hope."


  1. Harvey Milk was not the first openly gay person elected in the USA. However, he was the first from a major city and in California. There is a great web site dedicated to the evolution of the Castro from a small changing neighborhood in the Eureka Valley. It is not a recreation, but actual images and stories of the gay pioneers, including Harvey Milk. It is and visit my collection while you are there.

    1. Thanks for the clarification. I will make that change as I strive for accuracy when writing about documentaries. If you can't be accurate about documentaries, then what is the point?