PGA honors producers Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen
The PGA states that its Stanley Kramer Award honors films that “dramatically illuminate provocative social issues.” This year’s recipient, Gus Van Sant’s “Milk,” produced by Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, seems to have achieved that and more. “Milk” may well move auds to political action, suggest leaders of various gay-rights orgs.
“The impact of this movie has to be considered in the light of a number of things,” says Chuck Wolfe, prexy of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to electing openly lesbian, gay, bi and transgender candidates. “You have it coming out just after a majority of Californians voted for Proposition 8 and stripped gays and lesbians of the right to marry. But at the same time, the citizens of Boulder, Colo., elected Jared Polis, the first openly gay (man) to enter Congress (as a non-incumbent). So it’s one step forward and two backward.”
Wolfe points out that Harvey Milk’s political life was similarly erratic, with his losing elections before he won. “These things are struggles,” Wolfe insists. “‘Milk’ shows people that it takes hard work, and that you have to keep fighting. The movie has, and will continue to have, an impact that way.”
That inspiration may well go beyond the bounds of sexual orientation.
“I think the film’s long-term impact is that millions of people who didn’t know who Harvey Milk was will now know his story and the importance of coalition building and achieving rights for everyone,” says Geoff Kors, exec director of Equality California, a legislative-action org. “He stood for the principle of living authentically, for building coalitions and understanding that to achieve rights for anyone, you have to achieve them for everyone. And the film embodies those principles.”
Neil Giuliano, prexy of GLAAD, the leading gay media watchdog group, concurs. “The film will motivate younger activists,” he says. “I want them to see it and think they can run for office, not think they can’t run because of their sexual orientation. I want our straight allies to watch the film and realize that we’ve been fighting a long time and we’re still fighting now.
“And I want them to feel it should be their issue, too. If that can happen, then this film will have been transformative.”
Nothing would make the “Milk” producers happier.
“Wouldn’t it be great if this movie inspired a new leader to emerge?” Jinks muses. “This movie is about a closeted gay man who was a Republican and not at all political. Perhaps there’s someone who will see it and say, ‘Leadership is needed, and I can fill that role.’ That would be extraordinary.”
Yet the movie was not conceived in such a fashion.
“There was no Proposition 8 when ‘Milk’ was written and being shot,” Cohen says. “That came up when we were in editing — and we were surprised by the parallels to our story. We saw history repeating itself, with even some of the same tactics that were used against the community in 1978, when Proposition 6 was on the ballot.”
The film also may have provided unintended balm in light of Proposition 8’s passage.
“At any other time, it would have been inspiring, but given the timing of its release, ‘Milk’ has had a healing quality, particularly for Californians,” says Joe Solmonese, prexy of the Human Rights Campaign. “And I think that’s an important, if unintended, consequence.”
Will “Milk” lead to more gay-theme films?
“There are a lot of compelling LGBT stories that Hollywood could be making films about,” says Giuliano. “There’s an audience for that, especially with younger people. Plus it can further national discussions that are important if we’re ever going to achieve real equality.”