Gus Van Sant’s latest film, Milk, chronicles the short-lived, but significant political career of San Francisco District 5 Supervisor Harvey Milk. The story is touching in it’s own right, but it’s release just a month after California passed Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, makes it a powerful history lesson for the state of California and the United States as a whole.
Milk was not only the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, but a charismatic and eloquent leader that put a face on the gay rights movement of the late 1970’s. The focal point of the film is his efforts to defeat Proposition 6, which would have banned gays, lesbians, and their supporters from working in public schools in California.
The parallels to Proposition 8 are obvious, though that wasn’t Van Sant’s intention. Van Sant had been trying to get a film made about Milk since 1992, but things did not fall into place until 2007. Though he did not intend to have to film released at such a politically turbulent time, this film will no doubt inspire many who have been participating in Proposition 8 protests statewide.
The film ultimately succeeds in telling this historical narrative as well as paying tribute to an inspirational leader and unintentionally commenting on current politics.