'Milk' serves as 'call to action'

Film renews a sense of activism among gays

"Milk" lost the battle for the best film Oscar on Sunday, but activists say it has won a lasting place in U.S. culture wars by energizing mostly young, gay men and women to speak out.

The movie, which recounts the political life of slain gay activist Harvey Milk, did win two Oscars -- best actor for Sean Penn who played Milk and best original screenplay for Dustin Lance Black, a one-time gay teenager raised as a Mormon in Texas.

It lost the best movie Oscar to rags-to-riches romance "Slumdog Millionaire," and in Hollywood there is an old saying that few people remember the winners other than best film.

Even so, members of the gay community say "Milk" has been like a tonic that has renewed a sense of activism among younger gay men and lesbians, which is expected to last long into the future.

"Of all the Oscar films, the one that will live on is 'Milk,' " said Geoff Kors head of Equality California. "It is a film that will be shown in schools and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) centers around the world."

By all accounts, the political battles over gay marriage in the U.S. and the 2008 election have also raised awareness of political activism among young, gay individuals.

Beyond current day issues, "Milk" serves as a reminder that gay men and women have a history of political trailblazers to be admired for openly advocating social change.

" 'Milk' the movie has reintroduced a period in the fight for gay rights to a younger crowd that may have not have been so familiar with that period," said Phil Curtis, director of government affairs, for AIDS Project Los Angeles.

"Milk" producers Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks told Reuters in a recent interview their goal in making the movie was less about ticket sales and awards, and more about telling the story of Milk's life to generations born after his murder in 1978.

"The best part of it has been getting the film out to a wider audience," Jinks said.

So far, the movie has grossed more than $35 million at global boxoffices, far short of the $178 million that Oscar nominee and gay romance "Brokeback Mountain" had in 2005. But it is more than double the $15 million generated by transgender tale "Transamerica" that same year.

How long "Milk's" impact will last remains anyone's guess, but Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, thinks it could have a long life. He sees it "as a reminder of a call to action" that is "still reaching some of our young adults."
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