Short Film - 575 Castro St.

Steve Taylor-Bryant is watching some of the short films on offer at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Here are his thoughts on 575 Castro St. showing as part of the retrospective strand...

“I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out, stand up and let the world know. That would do more to end prejudice overnight than anybody could imagine. I urge them to do that, urge them to come out. Only that way will we start to achieve our rights. … All I ask is for the movement to continue, and if a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door”

I knew a little of Harvey Milk before I watched the Gus Van Sant film starring Sean Penn back in 2008 but, as a straight man who never faced the prejudice that Harvey Milk did it, to my shame, it kind of went over my head a little and had truly little effect on me. As I got slightly older and had friends who did face prejudice for their sexual choices, religious beliefs, or skin colour, I started to mature as a man and help to support them as best I can but never went back to Milk, or to the story of Harvey Milk which it turns out is quite a fascinating one. I even missed 575 Castro St. on its first release in 2009 but as Sundance celebrates its Fortieth anniversary as the world's leading film festival, Jenni Olson’s very short film is having another showing and it is time to right those wrongs from earlier in my film life.

The film starts with a statement…

“In February 1977, the San Francisco Gay Film Festival was born when a self-described ‘ragtag bunch of hippie fag filmmakers’ got together and projected their Super 8 short films on a bed sheet. Many of these films explored gay themes, but (like other experimental films of the era) many were simple and light and motion studies. Most of these films passed through Harvey Milk’s Castro Camera Store at 575 Castro St. for processing.

“In 2008, the Castro Camera Store was recreated at that address for Gus Van Sant’s film MILK. This film was shot on that set.”

The statement is an important one as it shows that, in the telling of Harvey Milk’s story, a lot went into the details to make sure it was told right. It's also astonishing as, in Olson’s film, it looks exactly like a store would in the 1970’s and is indistinguishable from pictures of Milk’s actual store. It sets a real emotional mood for the narrative that runs on top of the imagery, which is Harvey Milk’s last words, a tape recording he made that is more commonly known as the ‘In the event of my assassination’ tape. His words are beautiful and haunting in equal measure and delve into the prejudice and anger he faced then as a gay elected official but also play now as a warning to the world that extraordinarily little has changed in the forty odd years since his tragic killing. He lays out his hopes for the future of gay rights, his hopes for his successor to office, and his dreams for a more compassionate world and, with the imagery shot on the camera store set, Jenni Olson has produced a moving insight into a fascinating man and an era we all wish had passed but sadly seems to be returning.

Jenni Olson’s film is a fine tribute to a man that wanted a better and more equal life for everyone and a world more accepting of those that are different to them, it's just a shame he had to be killed for the world to hear that message. 575 Castro St. is well worth 6 or 7 minutes of your time and I apologise that it took me so long to find those minutes.

575 Castro Street is showing at the Sundance Film Festival until 30th January, as part of the retrospective "From the Collection" strand. Find out more, and how you can watch the film, here.

Image - Sundance Film Festival
Powered by Blogger.