GOT MILK?

“My name is Harvey Milk, and I am here to recruit you!” The trailer for the film “MILK” opens with these iconic words spoken by Sean Penn, who plays Harvey Milk in the new film opening Dec. 5. A dramatic portrayal of the life of gay politician Harvey Milk in the years before his tragic death, this relatively unpublicized film directed by Gus Van Sant features many talented actors such as James Franco, Dennis O’Hare, Emile Hirsch and Josh Brolin. In a decade in which bio-pics have become a staple of box-office success, what will make this film about Harvey Milk any different for moviegoers? I spoke with Dot Brauer, the director of UVM”s LGBTQA Services on the importance of this film for today’s viewers. As a publicly gay man dedicated to his role in his community, Harvey Milk worked to voice the fears and concerns of marginalized homosexuals in San Francisco during the 1970s, Brauer explained. Harvey Milk himself makes this film important as one of the first figures to initiate an international gay rights movement. “Harvey Milk embodied hope for a future of visionary people,” Brauer stated, “He gave gays the courage to speak up and see a possibility for change.” Brauer shares the hope of many others in the LGBTQA community that this film will revive Harvey Milk’s own message for hope, and remind viewers that we too must take risks to preserve our own self-respect.I also spoke with supporting actor Dennis O’Hare, who plays the anti-gay California Senator John Briggs in this film, about what he thinks is significant about MILK. O’Hare explained this film will result in raising viewers’ consciousness, and that it will educate many on a topic they were previously ignorant of, raising their level of sensitivity and awareness toward the struggle for gay rights. “As a gay man it’s really important to have a gay role model … Harvey Milk is our martyr, a true gay saint,” O’Hare said. O’Hare stated that although this movie’s true goal is to raise awareness about the gay rights movement, that it will inevitably be a source of controversy. “People focus on sex and the shock factor: same old, same old. It will do a little bit in that it normalizes the portrayal of gay sex in mainstream culture,” he said. The film MILK directly addresses the injustices that result from homophobia and gay stereotypes in the social and political setting, and appeals to today’s audience to make strides toward ending prejudice.