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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Civil Rights at the Oscars - Milk

February 20, 2009 - Posted by Tyler Lewis

Milk movie poster

Movies and music can be powerful reflections of our times, past and present, and tell stories that inform and empower millions of people in ways other media cannot.  This week, we highlight four Oscar-nominated films that have found compelling ways to tell stories about civil and human rights.  The Oscars will be shown on TV this Sunday, February 22. 

Gus Van Sant's "Milk," which tells the story of how small business owner Harvey Milk became the nation's first openly gay elected official, has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Achievement in Directing.

When Harvey Milk arrived in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco in 1972, the area was in the midst of a transformation. A huge migration of gay and lesbian residents to the formerly working-class neighborhood created a lot of tension and violence.

The film shows Milk's rise through San Francisco city politics by creating a vivid picture of what life was like for gay residents in the Castro - from physical assaults to frequent run-ins with local police - and of how Milk emerged as a charismatic leader who organized gay people and other disadvantaged residents of the Castro.

Ultimately, the film succeeds in making the story as much about the gay community's political maturation as Milk's individual success. 

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