Following the critical and box-office failure of Stonewall, a film with the best of intentions and the most deplorable of outcomes, there’s already a need for a more intimate and experienced filmic representation of the LGBT struggle, and the next one may very well come from both a familiar and not-so-familiar place. As EW reports, ABC, not exactly the most ambitious channel on television, has ordered an eight-part mini-series entitled When We Rise, which will document the struggle for LGBT rights in San Francisco, and plan to debut the series sometime in 2016. Milk producer Bruce Cohen, along with Black, Van Sant, and Laurence Mark, are set to executive produce the series.
The series was penned by Dustin Lance Black, who is known primarily for his Oscar-winning script for Milk, about the late gay-rights advocate and beloved city official Harvey Milk. That film was directed, sensationally, by Gus Van Sant, and now the filmmaker is confirmed to be the director on at least the first two parts of When We Rise. Both men are openly gay and have helmed, and written, some of the most fascinating works about homosexuality over the last few decades. Beyond scripting Milk, Black also wrote the script for one of the most undervalued films of this decade, that being Clint Eastwood‘s surpassingly wise and insightful J. Edgar, which quietly suggested that repression of homosexual tendencies was part of what made J. Edgar Hoover, played by a heartbreaking Leonardo DiCaprio, such a brutal, fascistic government official.
Van Sant, of course, has touched on concepts of sexuality, in several different forms, throughout his career in several major masterworks, ranging from My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy to his marvelous debut, Mala Noche, and the controversial, unforgettable Elephant. Despite his more progressive thematic concerns, Van Sant is first and foremost a brilliant creator of images and a poetic formulator of cinematic visuals; even his most negligible projects are worth seeing just to see where he puts the camera and how the film is cut together. Packaging his increasingly honed technical abilities with some of his most personal fascinations, the director might help make When We Rise one of the best narratives that ABC has ever okayed in their history as a network.