In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay… In 1977, Harvey Milk was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first openly gay man to be voted into public office in America. His victory was not just a victory for gay rights; he forged coalitions across the political spectrum. From senior citizens to union workers, Harvey Milk changed the very nature of what it means to be a fighter for human rights and became, before his untimely death in 1978, a hero for all Americans.
Sean Penn stars as Harvey Milk under the direction of Gus Van Sant (director of Elephant and Paranoid Park) in Milk. Milk charts the last eight years of Harvey Milk’s life. While living in New York City, he turns 40. Looking for more purpose, Milk and his lover Scott Smith relocate to San Francisco, where they found a small business, Castro Camera, in the heart of a working-class neighbourhood. With his beloved Castro neighbourhood and beautiful city empowering him, Milk surprises Scott and himself by becoming an outspoken agent for change. With vitalizing support from Scott and from new friends like young activist Cleve Jones, Milk plunges headfirst into the choppy waters of politics. Bolstering his public profile with humour, Milk’s actions speak even louder than his gift-of-gab words. When Milk is elected supervisor for the newly zoned District 5, he tries to coordinate his efforts with those of another newly elected supervisor, Dan White. But as White and Milk’s political agendas increasingly diverge, their personal destinies tragically converge. Milk’s platform was and is one of hope – a hero’s legacy that resonates in the here and now
Stars on their way to the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles had to pass a group of Christian demonstrators outside who protested against gay marriage and attacked the memory of the late Heath Ledger, a favourite target of militant anti-gay protesters since his role in Brokeback Mountain.
Penn won the best actor award for Milk, in which he played politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk. The actor opened his acceptance speech with the words: "You commie, homo-loving sons of guns," to laughter from the audience. Referring to the protest, he said: "For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think that it is a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect and anticipate their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that way of support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone."
Dustin Lance Black, who won best original screenplay for Milk, continued the theme in an emotional speech. Raised in a strict Mormon household, he spoke movingly of the day he read Harvey Milk’s life story. Milk, who was shot dead in 1978, was the first openly gay man elected to public office in California. "It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married," Black said.
"If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he would want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are ‘less than’ by their churches, by the government or by their families: that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value. And that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you. And that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally across this great nation of ours. Thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk."
Sean Penn and gay director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) have created a warm-hearted testament to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay individual who was elected to major political office, and was then murdered/martyred. — Fayetteville Free Weekly
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