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Kirby Dick Is

Kirby Dick Is


He's tackled the MPAA and showgirls, but documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick is about to unleash his most controversial film to date: Outrage , a look at closeted, conservative politicians like Larry Craig and Charlie Crist.

In 1983, Edwin Edwards, a famously corrupt Democratic politician from Louisiana, boasted, "The only way I can lose this election is if I'm caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy." He voiced what most closeted politicians fear most: Getting outed is comparable to murder -- or, at least, career homicide.

Having taken on the MPAA ratings board in This Film Is Not Yet Rated , with Outrage, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week, director Kirby Dick lays bare a long list of right-wing politicians who fight against gay rights and work even harder to make sure they don't get caught with a live boy.

In working on Outrage, Dick found that for people outside of politics, both gay and straight, the revelations are surprising. "I prefer to make films where the people don't know the subject matter backwards and forwards," he said. "I don't want to make another film on global warming."

Not that there's anything wrong with that. film Outrage maintains that D.C. is crawling with high-powered closeted gay men. You spill the beans on politicians like U.S. representative Ed Schrock of Virginia, U.S. representative David Dreier of California, Florida governor Charlie Crist, former New York mayor Ed Koch, and others. Does this film actually out anyone who wasn't already outed? Kirby Dick: They're all people who have been outed in some other forms; one of the themes of the film is that while the gay press has been writing about these issues for almost two decades now, the mainstream press, for the most part, has not picked this up.

Do you really think this is a "brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy" to conceal homosexuality among D.C. politicians, as your film attests? That seems to suggest a unified plan? Well, it revolves around the definition of conspiracy. Certainly there's collusion -- there are not people sitting in the same room, but there's a lot that's unspoken that can go on. A powerful journalist is going to be reluctant to ask a hard question, say, to Larry Craig or Charlie Crist even, because it could mean that he or she would lose access to that politician.

The thing about Larry Craig was there was an incredible amount of news, late-night talk show hosts made some very funny jokes, but the media did not go deeply into the issue. They did not examine the political circumstances, the hypocrisy or the psychology of it. For the most part, they treated it in a tabloid way. When something like Mark Foley or Larry Craig happens, the media treats it as anomalous -- this one person has been exposed -- not that there's a system at play. It's really more about the closet than an individual person.

So what's your position on outing? In situations where someone is closeted and in a position of power to vote against gay rights, I think that rises to the level of hypocrisy and I think reporting on that hypocrisy is appropriate, and I think the right thing to do. I think once you move beyond that, there's an open debate to be had, but I chose to limit my film to instances of hypocrisy.

When is it not OK to out someone? Of course, if someone is not in a powerful or influential role, it's totally inappropriate. I considered looking at what are the responsibilities of celebrities who are closeted; they are certainly powerful role models and an argument could be made that, in some ways, some well-known movie actors might be able to affect more change by coming out than a closeted politician could by voting for gay rights issue.

How did you come to choose this subject matter for a documentary? When I made This Film Is Not Yet Rated , I knew about that story only because I was in the film business; I thought, there must be stories in D.C. that would make a really fascinating documentary, ones that are only known by people in D.C. or in politics. And I started asking around and, in conversations, it quickly came up that Karl Rove is gay. And I thought, Really? That's pretty fascinating.

Wow. I've never heard that one. Now, there's no corroboration for that, but that is a rumor floating around. I'm not saying it's not true, but I had not even one hint of something that substantiated it, so it's pure rumor. But from there, discussions moved quickly to the fact that there were closeted politicians who were gay and were voting antigay.

Like Rep. Ed Schrock, who cosponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment. In the film you reveal that tapes later surfaced of him placing ads on a gay men's phone line. It's a very interesting psychological dynamic. These are people who chose to go into the closet, maybe in their 20s, and have lived their life there for decades. It's almost Shakespearean in a way -- and very rich subject matter for a documentary. You have some significant hypocrisy in the government and you have a situation where the press is reluctant to write about this.

In your investigations, were there any Deep Throat moments? [ Laughs ] You know there were. I can't go into any specifics, but these are people who have a great deal of power and people are afraid there will be some repercussion if they talk. Oftentimes people would say yes and then back out. I was very surprised by how fearful sources were at times, and I was glad for the people who did speak. There's reluctance, but there's also courage on their part.

Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey was very forthright, very honest. Were you surprised he was willing to talk? Yes, I was. I thought he would be a little more guarded. He's had time to really think through these issues. Like Jim Kolbe of Arizona [who has said he's relieved to be out, even though he was forced out only after voting for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996]. Their experience of finally being free of the closet was such a release that it did allow them to probe the kind of pain they had experienced. I think there was something cathartic about talking about it.

They are both former politicians, but the story of Charlie Crist is really scary. You said he is a very likely choice for the Republican presidential candidate in 2012. It's a sad story in my opinion. Charlie Crist is very moderate, and I think he truly is a very nice person. On the other hand, there's no doubt in my mind that if he wasn't concerned about the closet, [he would not have been such a champion of Florida's Amendment 2, which constitutionally banned marriage or similar forms of relationship recognition for same-sex couples]. It was a political calculation on his part. He did it because he had greater political ambitions and I think that's the same reason he got married, and in some ways that's actually more reprehensible than if he actually believed it -- if he was against gay marriage. It shows the cost of the closet. It shows how the closet can contort the political system.

You do discuss the political considerations that cause some people to decide to remain closeted, but you don't talk much about internalized homophobia. For some, there is the issue of self-hatred, but for some, they actually do accept the fact that they're gay but they're not going to come out. Some closeted gays consider the gays who are out to be weaker than they were. I kind of see their perspective; they're saying, "Look, we're not going to let our personal lives get in the way of our political ambitions." And as scary as that is, I suppose, in one definition, that is being stronger.

Are you gay? I'm straight.

Some might argue that it's somewhat unusual for a documentary filmmaker to focus on gay subjects when he is straight. In my opinion the gay rights struggle is the most important civil rights issue of its time in this country and it affects all Americans. When any particular group of people is denied rights, the whole country is harmed by it. I've become more and more appalled that the right wing has advanced their platform on the backs of gays and lesbians. I follow politics very, very closely, and this was an opportunity for me to have my say and not just have others legislate upon me, so to speak.

Is it easier for a straight person to make this film because others won't assume you have an ax to grind? Sometimes, as a filmmaker, not having an investment is more of a challenge. If I were gay, I could personalize this in a way. I could talk about coming out of the closet myself and that could give the film more impact. In some ways being gay is slightly an advantage.

Do you think this is your most controversial film? I have to wait and see; I can probably answer that in two weeksaEUR|

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