“I am not a candidate. I am part of a movement. The movement is the candidate”. This was the first of many phrases that touched me last Saturday while I watched Milk (a movie directed by Gus Van Sant) here at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.
The movie, starred by Sean Pean, is about the true story of Harvey Milk, a neighborhood activist elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977 and murdered, along with the city’s mayor, George Moscone, by a former supervisor named Dan White in 1978. Milk was the first politician openly gay elected in the country. His election and activism had a profound impact on national politics, and his rich afterlife in American culture has affirmed his status as pioneer and martyr.
At the beginning, Harvey Milk was just a guy wanting to open a photo store at Castro Street, the center of a decadent neighborhood of the city that time. Milk was discouraged to open his store there, but started to realize that he was able to resist the threats and became one of the few leaders of a movement that, in little time, turned Castro into the epicenter in the struggle for the civil rights of homosexuals.
The main fight captained by Milk was against the preposition 6, proposed by Senator John Briggs, whose intention were the expulsion of gay teachers from the public schools in the United States. Milk played an important role to defeat the proposal and was strengthened in the political landscape of California then.
The greatest achievement of the film, in my view, is the ability to present clearly and convincingly what is the central objective of all of us that are militant and / or work with social movements, that is, the ability of to demonstrate that is impossible to think in process of democratization of the society without the inclusion of the minorities discriminated against.
Despite a degree of sobriety and distances from the characters that the movie portrays, it’s evident that we are talking about a militant perspective. It is clear the importance of the collective actions to lead us into the social changes and to the self-determination.
Thus, for all of us that, currently, are proud of our relative freedom, here in San Francisco or anywhere else in the world, we are in debt to figures such as Milk, who gave up their egoism looking for the guarantee of social rights that they themselves did not had the opportunity to enjoy fully.
Another strong point of the film is its ability to not be a dated work, completely closed in the moment portrayed. The trajectory of a movement that emerged 30 years ago is unfinished, since there are many barriers to overcome until the point where, perhaps, political and sexual themes are no longer interconnected.