A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this documentary provides an unvarnished examination of a despicable act: the assassination of gay San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. Though the crime itself isn’t shown, the buildup to it and the aftermath could be upsetting for viewers under 12. Teens and adults will find it a thought-provoking piece of history.
What's the story?
A 1984 Academy Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK is a riveting account of politician Harvey Milk’s rise to power in San Francisco and his fight for gay rights. A beloved local figure, Milk, the self-billed “mayor” of the Castro district, ran a camera shop that served as de facto headquarters for his burgeoning political aspirations. Sadly, his career was cut short when fellow city supervisor Dan White shot him and Mayor George Moscone dead at City Hall, an event that changed the face of San Francisco -- and the country -- forever.
Is it any good?
Director Rob Epstein has mined the archives fully with news footage and interviews that bring the intriguing, charismatic Milk back to life. He leaves almost no stone unturned here without overwhelming with too much detail. The story unfolds like the real-life drama that it was, the suspense inching up as the fateful day approaches, backed up by amazing visuals and audio (including Milk reading his will). What a feat: It could’ve just as easily ended up dry as toast like many other documentaries looking back on history. And what a history it is! It’s not just Milk audiences get to know, it’s the entire city of San Francisco at a time when change was a constant and revolution the operative word.
A few (minor) complaints: Milk is tangible as an adult, but before that, he’s imprecise. We see some photos from his younger years, but not many, not until his move to San Francisco. White, his nemesis, feels a little slight, too, a mystery figure about which not much is known. One gets a sense of a tortured, complicated man, but not much more. Nevertheless, the film’s a revelation.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what audiences know about Milk’s legacy and how this film helps inform. How helpful is the film in disseminating more information about Milk and the circumstances surrounding his death?
Families can also discuss stereotypes, the gay rights movement, and Milk’s place in it. How did he bring about lasting change? What would he think about the gay rights movement today?
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