Okay, all you documentary fans, have I got a recommendation for you. The Times of Harvey Milk, winner of the 1985 Academy Award for Best Documentary, left me speechless and filled with mixed emotions. In the 1970s in San Francisco, good-natured camera store owner Harvey Milk was elected onto the board of city supervisors, becoming the first gay city official in the U.S.
At a time when civil rights were still at the forefront of peoples' minds, Milk, along with his colleagues and friends, worked hard for tolerance. Among other things, Milk fought to make it illegal to fire teachers based on their sexual orientation. This was a huge win for Milk and his supporters, and his career at city hall was picking up speed.
At the apex of this success, however, Milk was shockingly assassinated, along with the mayor at the time, the highly respected George Moscone. The murderer was a fellow board member whose defense claimed, among other preposterous things, that he was rendered insane from eating too much junk food. That's not nearly the end, however, so
This story is so intriguing and sad that it made me wonder how I'd never heard about it, and here's why: Milk's murder occurred almost immediately after the story broke about the Jonestown massacre, another San Francisco-related tragedy in which approximately 900 people died (which became fodder for another jarring documentary). Thus, Milk's story garnered very little press.
The whole thing seems too crazy to be true, and sure enough, there is a Hollywood movie in the works, The Mayor of Castro Street, helmed by Superman Returns director Bryan Singer and scheduled to come out in 2009. Before then, though, check out The Times of Harvey Milk.