The Times of Harvey Milk

The Times of Harvey Milk is a documentary about the life and assassination of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. He was the first gay man on San Francisco’s board of supervisors which made his time in office extremely historical. Much of the information takes place in “The Castro,” the town Milk resided in San Francisco. The documentary was created by Director Robert Epstein and Writers Judith Coburn and Carter Wilson. The film was made in 1984, a few years after Milk’s painful and horrifying assassination.

In the film, Harvey Milk reads an excerpt from a recorded will that he made in case he was assassinated. He knew, as a gay man in office at the time, he was in an extremely vulnerable position. But, he considered himself to be part of something bigger, part of the gay movement. This puts into perspective the role these influential and historical individuals had and the importance of their bravery. The film documents Harvey Milk as a figure for gay liberation and the state of San Fransisco in the 1970s.

The film divulges individual interviews from people who knew him and were involved in his campaign. Tom Ammiano, a school teacher, claims how Harvey not only brought an astounding amount of humor to his life but also an astounding amount of self worth. Tom, who was more a more feminine man felt as though he belonged when he was with Harvey where with others he felt an outsider. Milk ran for political office in San Fransisco for 3 consecutive years and even though he lost every time, he persevered because he believed things needed to change in the state of California as well as throughout the nation. “The Castro” where Harvey resided became booming with gay life. Harvey helped organize the annual Castro Street Fair where the neighborhood thrived and gay individuals and symbols were broadly displayed. Milk realized then that the town was ready for change and he ran a 4th time for the Board of Supervisors for his district. He was finally elected and this began his time as an influential historical and political figure.

Harvey Milk’s election gave lesbian and gay individuals in San Francisco a voice, one they had been waiting for to be heard. Not only did Harvey pass a stringent gay rights ordinance in his city, he represented hope and progression for the LGBT community by being involved politically. The Times of Harvey Milk documents Milk’s time in office and his continued influence on gay progression. The documentary claims Harvey Milk “represented change.” This artifact mirrors the work of other gay figures, such as Walt Whitman. These historical figures legitimized homosexuality and became icons in the gay movement. These historical icons served as the worlds “firsts.” Walt Whitman, one of the first homosexual poets and Harvey Milk the first gay supervisor in San Fransisco. Their position and work gave LGBT individuals something to related to, look to and resonate with. Walt Whitman’s work is documented in his poetry while Harvey Milk’s work is documented in films like The Times of Harvey Milk.