Tribeca 2009: Kirby Dick and Outrage
Tue, 12 May 2009 13:16:59
“We obviously weren’t interviewing the closeted politicians; they would have had to come out in order for that to happen, unless they were going to be interviewing in shadow,” remarks documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated), humorously pointing out that certain politicos may have been a tad bit frightened to sit in front of the camera for his controversial, stirring documentary Outrage.
“[D.C.] is a careful town, and I understand why: You have to be careful in politics. It took a lot of effort to get the range of people we did.” Discussing with ARTISTdirect the political ramifications his film might have on certain hypocritical elected officials—who, discreetly, participate in homosexual acts though refuse to support gay civil issues—Dick hopes Outrage will lift the veil of the very-hidden gay culture of Capitol Hill, broaden the public’s perspective on gay civil rights, and answer the question, "Who are the culprits consistently up against progress?"
Due to the provocative subject matter of the film, was it difficult to get politicians onboard as interview subjects?
Kirby Dick: Well, some people came onboard [the film] very early on: Kirk Fordham did, Bobby Frank did. But, my producer Amy Ziering is just particularly skilled, conveying that this was a legitimate film, not a tabloid film. It really wanted to examine the issue of the closet, the personal toll it takes on politicians, and how it contorts the American political process. That’s what the film looks at. I’m very happy with the range of people we got…Everybody, Republican or Democrat or Independent, in our film, wanted this story told.
You spoke of balancing that line of dealing with people’s inner, private, sexual moments. Did you really want to persecute these people that are clearly having this difficult time?
KD: I’m empathetic to these people. These people are victims of homophobia, even the worst—especially Larry Craig who was a victim of homophobia growing up in Idaho, in the middle of anti-gay scare. This affected his entire life…It’s too bad these people have to choose to live a life in the closet. And again, I wasn’t really interested in reporting on all the details of how they have sex. This is really only the necessary reporting to show there is an example of hypocrisy.
What has the reception been so far at the Tribeca Film Festival?
KD: It’s been great. Also, we’ve screened the film in D.C. and Philadelphia. And I’ve been very gratified: People are very moved and supportive of the film. But, also—and this has been said a lot of times at Q&As—people come in and say, “Well, I’m opposed to outing [closeted politicians].” And then they leave, saying: “But I understand why this reporting is so important.” And one of things I wanted to do was get past the debate on outing.
I’m really interested in the Florida Governor Charlie Crist, because there is this Bush-like, off-the-cuff casualness about him. Do you think it’s all a show?
KD: He seems to be a very nice man, very friendly, very casual. I think this is all true. Again, this is kind of sad; this is a person who really made the wrong choice and I think maybe the enduring legacy of his administration is the passage of Amendment 2 in office. (Note: Florida’s Amendment 2 banned gay marriage in the state of Florida as well as civil unions.)
There are many themes in Outrage similar to your last film, This Film Is Not Yet Rated. What interests you in these systematic bodies of censorship?
KD: As a filmmaker you sort of develop a skill that you feel like you can apply or you can utilize to answer the public debate on these very important issues, that’s one thing. I think the second thing is: It adds an interesting formal challenge to making a film. You have this institution who is protecting some sort of secrecy and that is also, simultaneously in my opinion, harming either the arts or the American political system. Then you have the intent or the will of the documentary team trying to penetrate that. It’s a dramatic structure for a film.
Regarding Ex-Idaho Senator Larry Craig, are you going to send him a copy of the film? Do you think they’ll respond to the film?
KD: I think most of them won’t. Ed Koch responded, but he said, “I’m not going to answer the question whether I’m gay or not.” This is a very common response…[Outrage] isn’t there to needle them. There was some discussion whether there should be some gotcha-journalism—you know, jump out and get somebody [on camera]. I didn’t want to do that. Like I said, [these officials in question] are victims of homophobia. What I’d like this film to do is to advance the cause of gay rights, which I feel is the most important human rights issue in this country at this time. I’d like to shed light on this really under-reported hypocrisy, and by having this film made about the closet and all the discussion that surrounds it, hopefully this will help contribute to the demise or lessoning of the closet as a factor in the American political life.