Times of Harvey Milk [1984]

The Times of Harvey Milk A devastatingly skillful and emotionally compelling documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk charts the political rise and brutal slaying of the first openly gay city official in the United State, Harvey Milk. Ironically, the same election that brought Milk to the board of city supervisors of San Francisco also elected the man who killed him, a former police officer and fireman named Dan White. After White shot both Mayor George Moscone and Milk, his defense lawyers convinced the jury that White's judgment was impaired by depression and junk food, resulting in a conviction for manslaughter instead of murder--a verdict that prompted riots. With care and conviction, The Times of Harvey Milk captures not only Milk himself, but also the political and social landscape in which these events took place. The interviews--with friends, politicians, and journalists--are articulate and heartfelt, expressing the impact that Milk had upon this historical moment. --Bret Fetzer Where Are We? (Our Trip Through America) Accomplished documentarians Rob Epstein and Jeff Friedman (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Celluloid Closet) take a trip across the American South and Southwest, asking people about their hopes and fears. Along the way they interview a mobile-home salesman, gay and lesbian soldiers (including Gulf War veterans), a woman whose husband built her miniature version of Graceland, a recovering drug addict who aspires to movie stardom, a 15-year-old mother-to-be, and a casino owner whose role models include Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa. Where Are We? (Our Trip Through America) is simple; none of the interviewees says anything profound or complex--yet the movie captures an intriguing and contradictory cross-section of the U.S., observing how people forge ahead regardless of their circumstances, seeking happiness as best they can. It's a striking portrait of resilience, illustrated with some amazing hairstyles. --Bret Fetzer Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt As of 2004, a variety of drugs have been developed to resist, if not cure, AIDS--yet Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt remains as emotionally powerful as it was during the height of the crisis, when people were dying by the thousands every year. With a combination of photo-montages, interviews with friends and family members, home movies, and news footage, this 1989 documentary captures the grief of those who have survived victims of AIDS. It's wrenching to hear the mother of a hemophiliac boy describing giving him blood transfusions in the middle of the night, or seeing pictures of a former Olympic athlete with the daughter he fathered with a lesbian mother, or hearing a Naval officer describe his relief when he learned that he, like his dead lover, had the virus--that the stress of waiting was over. A moving combination of art and politics. --Bret Fetzer Paragraph 175 Rupert Everett narrates this sensitive documentary about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals during World War II. "Paragraph 175" refers to the old German penal code concerning homosexuality, which was used to justify the prosecution of gay men during the war (the code ignored lesbians, still considered viable baby-making vessels). As mere rumor became enough to justify imprisonment, over 100,000 were arrested and between 10,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. In Paragraph 175, Klaus Müller, a historian from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, sets out to interview the fewer than 10 who are known to remain alive. The film covers the astonishingly quick rise of Hitler (one interviewee points out how ridiculous a figure he seemed at first) and the shock that more liberal Germans felt as it became clear that he was a force to be reckoned with. Some of the film's most touching moments come when the participants reminisce about their first loves and the "homosexual Eden" that was Berlin in the 1930s. This is a beautifully well made documentary that poignantly captures a piece of nearly forgotten history. --Ali Davis

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