Hypocrisy On Trial
By Mike Berlin
Outrage, a new documentary by Academy Award nominated director Kirby Dick, dissects the hypocrisy and irony of closeted politicians who consistently vote and run on extremely anti-gay platforms. It's as much a study of the psychology of internalized homophobia as it is a plea for the general public to start taking notice. If everything goes according to plan, the film -- which very openly outs many allegedly gay politicians -- stands to be the object of much controversy when it is released in select theaters this Friday. Dick sat down with us amidst last week's Tribeca Film Festival frenzy and chatted about what's presently at stake for gay rights and why he hopes his film gets just as much negative response as it does positive.
Out:Have closeted politicians always been an interest of yours?
Kirby Dick: Well, you know, I've followed this -- I mean, not closely, but followed it -- and I'd been very interested in this situation since the early- to mid-90's. When I actually conceived of the film in August 2006, I was in Washington D.C. promoting my previous film, This Film is Not Yet Rated. I thought to myself, I know about that censorship because I'm in the film business. What stories are there inside the beltway, only known there, that I could make a documentary about? I started asking around and this issue came up very quickly.
You certainly picked a loaded issue.
There were three things that really made it worthy of making a documentary about: 1. The profound hypocrisy; 2. The fact that the mainstream media didn't talk about it; and 3. The psychology of these closeted politicians. There's something tragic, almost Shakespearean, about someone who would choose power, but have to live a double life for their entire lives. I thought, Oh my God, I cannot believe a film has not been made on this subject. And I thought, Why didn't I think of this ten years ago? One of the jobs of the documentary filmmaker is to be sensitive as to what's going on and say, 'Ok, there's a documentary going on somewhere.' And I was like, 'Get your shit together, Kirby.'
You criticize mainstream media for turning a blind eye to these stories. Why do you think they have been so reluctant to cover closeted politicians?
I think it's for a number of reasons. To their credit, these politicians are very closeted, so it's hard to get a certain level of information that they're comfortable with. But on the other hand, if it looks like hypocrisy, there's nothing wrong with asking the question: If you're gay or straight, if you're voting on these issues, particularly if you're voting against them. Secondly, one of the reasons they don't is they think they're somehow protecting people's privacy. And maybe they are, but at the expense of a very important issue in this country, and at the expense of millions of people being harmed. And then finally, I think it's an issue of access. The media are able to do their business by maintaining close professional relationships with these politicians. If they were even to ask that question, it would be the last moment they would even have access to that politician. I mean, they should ask it anyway.
Did you have trouble finding the subjects? Like the actual people who talked about having sex with Larry Craig in the 80's?
People are cautious, very cautious. I was amazed at the level of fear and caution. I mean, you think they might only be representatives and you don't think of them as necessarily that powerful. But they're very powerful within that district. The subjects are sometimes people who have lived in that district their whole lives -- theirprofessional and personal relationship are all there and they thought this person can really affect their lives. So I had, on a number of occasions, people start to talk to me, even off the record, and say, 'No, I can't continue.'