Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We saw “Milk” yesterday, the new Gus Van Sant film about Harvey Milk - the first openly gay man to be elected to office in the United States; also the first one to be assassinated. I have vague recollections of the events that unfolded in San Francisco in the mid-to-late 1970’s. I’m sure Milk’s murder made the news here in Australia but fear it may have been overshadowed by the other breaking news at the time: the Jonestown Massacre where over 900 souls were lost after following Jim Jones’ instructions to drink poison. In the closing sequences of “Milk”, there was a graphic which read that Milk’s ashes had been scattered together with some grape Kool Aid (reports suggest Flavor Aid packets were found at the JonesTown scene), and bubble bath. The film raised, for me, many questions. If you have an end in sight; is any action justified to reach that goal? What is the nature of power; does having influence change a person? If so, is it possible to have power and not be corrupted by it? Can power be taken or does it need to be bestowed? Did Pat White shoot Milk and Mayor Moscone because he perceived they had slighted him – as I understood it from the film. Or because he was a man under pressure and they seemed to be the focal point for no reason except they were there and he believed them responsible? It was also humbling (? it’s difficult to find the right word here) to know that some of the folk who helped and supported Milk are still around, and doing good works, these 30-odd years later. Makes me wonder how they have reacted to the film and their, and Milk’s, portrayal. For example, Anne Kronenberg, who worked as Milk’s campaign manager for his successful Supervisor bid. In the film she is a lesbian then – and now, a mother of three working in a US Government department. I read a comment by her on an item on the site and she made the point that Harvey Milk had been a great bridge builder – bringing together different groups – woman, seniors etc – and that was certainly portrayed in the film. Lots to think about here including how close to actual events is Van Sant’s portrayal of the Life and Times of Harvey Milk eg Milk had apparently made an audio recording to be played in the event of his death: there was no mention in the Wikipedia entry as to the contents of the tape except for Milk’s suggestion for possible replacements for his Supervisor position in the event of his demise.

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