Activists Seek to Tie ‘Milk’ to a Campaign for Gay Rights
Posted on November 23, 2008
Filed Under Uncategorized
LOS ANGELES — When the movie “Milk” comes next month to Claremont, a college town about 30 miles from here, Patrick Milliner intends to greet it with a candlelight vigil protesting the newly passed state prohibition of gay marriage.
Before this month’s election, Mr. Milliner organized unsuccessful opposition to California’s same-sex marriage ban, Proposition 8. Now he expects the movie, about Harvey Milk, the murdered gay-rights crusader and San Francisco supervisor, to ignite his “Shame on 8″ campaign.
“It fits perfectly with the plan,” Mr. Milliner said.
That may be good for the movement. Whether it is also good for the movie is less clear.
The convergence of “Milk,” which portrays gay-rights battles of 30 years ago, and a looming new culture war over homosexual marriage and other issues, has raised unusual expectations around Focus Features’ plan to release the film. It will be shown in a widening group of theaters, beginning with some in New York, Los Angeles and about a dozen other cities on Wednesday.
Proposition 8-related vigils have already occurred outside prerelease screenings in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Amy Balliett, a founder of jointheimpact.com, a clearing house for gay rights information, said on Friday that her site would urge its network of supporters to see the film on Dec. 5 at one of a list of “gay-friendly” theaters.
“Our goal is to make this movie one of the top three-grossing movies of the weekend,” Ms. Balliett said in an e-mail message.
Yet the unforeseen alignment between “Milk” and the gay-marriage ban — there was no Proposition 8 on any ballot when the director Gus Van Sant began shooting the film in January — also creates a conundrum for those Focus executives. How do they honor their movie hero’s feisty brand of confrontational politics without being consumed by them?
To join the fight could turn off some of the viewers Focus needs to make “Milk” a broad-based hit. But to sidestep it might disappoint a core audience that has begun to see the film as a rallying point.
Mr. Milk, played in the movie by Sean Penn, was not one to pull punches. “If this thing passes, fight the hell back!” Mr. Penn says at a pivotal point in the film, as his allies ponder the likely passage of Proposition 6, a 1978 ballot initiative aimed at curbing gay rights in California. (It failed.)
But Focus has been stepping carefully of late.
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