OUTRAGE: An interview with writer/director, Kirby Dick
In June of 2007, then Idaho Senator, Larry Craig, was arrested in a Minneapolis airport. He engaged in conversation with another man in the bathroom stall next to his and, before long, their shoes touched. Craig didn’t know it at the time but the man whose shoes he had become acquainted with was a police officer. Albeit a victim of entrapment, he was arrested on suspicion of lewd conduct and the 64-year-old senator was forced to have his sexuality become the hot topic on Capital Hill and across the national media. Despite the evidence against him, Craig vehemently denied being gay. He claimed that the officer misconstrued their conversation. He claimed this as loud as he could in the mainstream media. The message was clear; Craig had been accused of being a degenerate and a deviant, and that was something he would not allow to go unchallenged. Documentary filmmaker, Kirby Dick, has taken that challenge with, OUTRAGE, a film that outs closeted gay politicians as the hypocrites they are.
“I would much prefer that a gay politician come out on their own, even if there is some pressure on him or her, to do so themselves., for everyone involved,” Dick insists. “When it rises to this level of hypocrisy though, one way or another, it should be reported.” A number of gay men have publicly stated that they have either had sex with Craig or been in sexual scenarios with him. It would seem the evidence is stacked against him but, with his wife by his side, Craig has repeatedly denied his homosexuality. Craig has also voted against gay rights, from marriage issues to hate crime legislation. With his setup, he gets to explore his sexuality in private while living what is deemed as a respectable life in public. To do so though, he must deflect suspicion by voting anti-gay. It is not of interest to Dick that Craig is gay but rather his duplicity that he finds appalling. “We drew a bright line in our film. This is not a film about outing gay politicians. This is a film about reporting on the hypocrisy of closeted gay politicians who vote anti-gay.”
OUTRAGE achieves its purpose by backing its claims up with numerous sources, voting records and television news reports capturing some of the more infamous denials. There is a risk, of course, that the film may come across as sensational but if this gets people to see it, then Dick is happy. “I really don’t care why people come to the film. I just want them to come. But I want to go deeper into these complex issues. They really do affect millions of Americans.” The third part of the film, what Dick calls the “hate crime section”, exemplifies the worst of just how these millions of Americans are affected. While public figures denying their sexuality does insinuate that there is something still horribly wrong with it, it may not be directly responsible for inciting hate. That said, their denial and the voting stances that reinforce their lies, do nothing to protect the victims that may very well be them some day. “We are still in the midst of a very important gay rights struggle,” Kirby continues. “I think the most important human rights issue of our time is the gay rights struggle, in this country at least.” Self-loathing and the need for power should never be justification for an individual’s suffering or the progress of a nation.
Given the level of anger OUTRAGE incites in the viewer, it does so with a surprisingly level head. Dick’s passion and commitment to the cause are felt throughout this seamless film but so is his dedication to fairness. Only subjects that could be sufficiently substantiated were targeted and, as of the film’s premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Dick had not heard from any of the names he named. The closet typifies duality, from the pain and the lies when the door is closed to the healing and hope that wait on the other side. With so much potential for rage throughout production, I asked Kirby how he managed to tow the line between his own rage on the subject and the bright line he vowed earlier not to cross. “Part of it came from the interview subjects; they were so articulate. They had thought about this issue for often times, decades. They wanted this story told because they realized the damage of the closet. We had the benefit of this meditation from forty of fifty very thoughtful, analytical people in this film. They set the tone for us to make this film. And once this issue is discussed, it will be much harder for the closet to exist.”