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Phil Mercer

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Milk (Cert 15)


This is the story of Harvey Milk, a gay rights campaigner based in San Francisco and the first openly gay man to be voted in to political office in California, USA.

I have to point out, once again, my ignorance of a person who has been influential in how the world is today. As a gay man I really should know more about those who fought the system over the years and lost in some cases, and won in others. That said, this film does a great job in filling in my blanks.

Milk is one of the winners who paid the ultimate price. We follow him as he records his memoirs with a certain knowledge that all isn't going to end well. In fact we are very quickly informed that he is to be assisinated together with the Mayor of San Fransisco on the 27th November 1978.
Very quickly we flash back to 1970 and Milk (Sean Penn) meeting his partner Scott Smith (James Franco) and deciding that he needed something to change in his life, they up sticks to San Fransico to set up a Camera shop.
Castro Camera was based in the heart of an area called Eureka Valley, a place soon to become legendary in gay society and lovingly known as The Castro. However when Milk moved in, all was not well. This is an Irish Catholic working class neighbourhood and the locals don't take kindly to having these homosexuals finding a home there.
We follow Milk as he decides to do something about the gay bashing and bigotry by using his business skills and fast developing political skills to protest and fight back.As with all people who become so dedicated to a passion, it affects his personal and family life, but as history shows, for Milk there is eventually a success but inevitably also his death, which bizarelly seems to be over petty personal issues rather than any particular homophobia.

This is a very powerful docu-drama with a great cast and slick use of original news footage. It does worry me that Milk seems to be the perfect saint throughout, with little to fault him aside from his inability to see how his political career is affecting the people he loves most.
We knew whats coming all the way through but the Story is compelling and for me personally a very touching insight into an important part of gay history.
It's a real shame that the lessons of history don't seem up have been learnt for the Americans.
Just as the film was released in the states, a vote on proposition 8 was being carried out (at the same time as the presidential elections). This would have confirmed that gay marriage was possible in California. It was passed and as a result, only marriage between a mixed sex couple is allowed. Two steps forward (v0ting in a black president) and one step back (gay rights still have a way to go!). The film has been nominated for 8 Oscars, the question is, can it beat the likes of Brad Pitts blockbuster Bejamin Button or the ever popular Slumdog Millionaire.
I hope so.
Directed by Gus Van Sant
Written by Dustin Lance Black
Starring: Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, James Franco, Lucas Grabeel

Official website: http://www.filminfocus.com/focusfeatures/film/milk/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milk_(film)

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