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by Brian Brooks
April 9, 2009 5:22 AM
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Exploring Hypocrisy: Kirby Dick's "Outrage" Aims to Expose Closeted U.S. Politicians

[Editor's Note: This interview with "Outrage" director Kirby Dick was first published in indieWIRE for the lead-up to the film's Tribeca Film Festival premiere. Magnolia Pictures opens the film in select cities Friday May 8.]

With the culture wars heating up as the debate about gay marriage intensifies in numerous American states, a new documentary is poised to stir widespread discussion later this month when it premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival. Still in the final stages of post-production, Oscar nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick is turning the spotlight on closeted American politicians in his latest documentary, "Outrage." It will debut in New York City on April 24th and distributor Magnolia Pictures will quickly open the film shortly thereafter in movie theaters, intending to capitalize on the media attention that the film is sure to draw. In the words of the company, the film "could be a game changer in the ongoing battle for same sex civil rights in the United States."

While "Outrage" includes interviews with openly gay Representatives Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, as well as out former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, it's the look inside the secret lives of powerful U.S. political figures that will likely have people talking once the film is unveiled. The film aims to tell stories that haven't ever been reported on. In his previous documentary, "This Film is Not Yet Rated," Kirby Dick investigated the hypocrisy of the Motion Picture of America Association's (MPAA) film rating system, and in this new movie he tackles the hypocrisy of closeted policymakers who openly campaign against the LGBT community they are secretly a part of.

The new film examines the double lives of a number of current political figures, mostly Republican men, who have masked their homosexuality through marriage to women and by actively working against the gay community. It explores the stories of politicians who, through their policies and voting records, actively bash gay people in order to prove they themselves are not gay. And it details a media establishment that keeps their secrets. The lives of former elected officals (and even some mainstream media figures) are also examined as the film explores the dual lives of public people who have chosen to live in the closet.

Kirby Dick at the Sundance FIlm Festival in 2006. Photo by indieWIRE

indieWIRE recently watched an unfinished cut of the film and we have agreed to refrain from detailing certain aspects of the film, and some of those who may depicted in it, because the documentary was at a work-in-progress stage and is subject to change prior to its debut in two weeks at the Tribeca Film Festival. One person closely involved with the making of the movie recently told indieWIRE that the reporting and vetting of individual storylines will continue up until the last minute to make it as timely and airtight as possible.

In "Outrage," Kirby Dick takes a serious, journalistic approach to exploring the lives of a number of people, while at the same time digging into the culture of Washington D.C. politics and national media. Activist Larry Kramer and radio personality Michelangelo Signorile are among those interviewed, as are journalists and others who have gathered background over the years, or have direct insight into the sex lives of political figures.

"We're prepared for [the controversy], this is explosive territory," filmmaker Kirby Dick told indieWIRE yesterday by phone. "These closeted people make a decision early on, and they have decades of lies that have kept their lives under wraps. One of the reasons we made this film is that the closet distorts our whole political situation. The press doesn't report on this - [they are] very reluctant."

Exposing Hypocrisy

The genesis of the film came directly out of Kirby Dick's previous film, as he explained during the conversation. "I was in Washington, D.C. doing press for ['This Film is Not Yet Rated'] in 2006 when the subject came up," Dick said during the telephone interview. "I thought to myself, 'there's a story that's similar'. I'm in Hollywood and I know about this [flawed] ratings system, and I figured there's a similar story here in D.C. I started talking to people and the first thing I found out was that D.C. is in fact very gay. A great deal of staffers on the Hill are gay. It is not a secret there... And this had all the elelments for a fascinating story."

Getting people to talk on camera, not surprisingly, was a challenge when "Outrage" went into production, but over time Beltway insiders did open up. "Like 'This Film is Not Yet Rated,' it was hard to get people to talk about it, but we did get quite a lot of people who were closeted to talk. Even people who were once powerful politicians."

Kirby Dick, however, said that the main purpose of the film is not simply outing closeted politicians, but casting a spotlight on the massive hypocrisy that allows powerful people to work against the rights of a minority when they hide their personal lives while enjoying the spoils of power. Politicians, Dick says, have constructed a labyrinth of deceit in order to maintain their public facade while living double lives, which will inevitably result in shockwaves throughout the establishment once "Outrage" is screened and then released in theaters. [article continues on the next page, link below]

One openly gay politician, congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts, according to Dick, said that the press is ready to report on every aspect of a politician's life, but won't mention their homosexuality. Former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, however, told Kirby Dick that the closet had ironically helped him as a politician.

"Jim McGreevey - he was wonderful - laid out the pressures. As horrible as it is to be closeted, from a political point of view, it's great training because you have to spin and it's sort of how it is in politics," Dick explained, noting how successfully hiding their homosexuality actually helped politicians to master message manipulation.

"I think sometimes it's that they believe they will cause someone personal harm," Dick added, trying to explain why the mainstream media has mostly remained silent about closeted politicians, adding, "The most harm they cause I believe is they don't report this... I also think they believe that if they ask someone about their sexuality, they'll never have the chance to interview that person one on one again."

Distribution Plan

Following the Tribeca Fest premiere of "Outrage," New York distributor Magnolia Pictures will immediately open the film in movie theaters in select cities on May 8th -- in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, DC -- with an expansion quickly thereafter. Magnolia, a division of Mark Cuban's 2929 Entertainment, has a long track record with successful documentaries including "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," "Capturing the Friedmans," "Control Room," and this year's Oscar winner, "Man On Wire."

An image from "Outrage". Image provided by Magnolia Pictures.

The company got involved to back the film more than two years ago and is openly hoping it will lead to change. "We feel that the film can have a huge impact," Magnolia's Tom Quinn told indieWIRE this morning, "This is a really human story and I think [Kirby Dick] really gets to the heart of why this is important." Continuing, Quinn added, "I am not at a fan of the subject-driven, preachy doc and this is not one of those."

Magnolia, a sister unit of the Landmark Theaters chain, has decided to guard aspects of the film's content from leaking in order to maximize its punch when it debuts later this month, hoping to drive audiences to theaters when it rolls out around the country. "By design we've kept it under wraps," company president Eamonn Bowles told indieWIRE yesterday. "I've seen where the news gobbles up a story and people think they know about it already." Continuing Bowles added, "[Kirby Dick] is an accomplished filmmaker... There are some subjects that can't be described by soundbites and this is a very complex issue. We don't want to just boil it down to over simplification, which the media will inevitably do. I truly believe this subject would be over-sensationalized without the context of the film's point-of-view."

"Certain things [in the film] are revelatory," added Tom Quinn, today. "The fact that people will get to see this film not at home, not in a vacuum, not in their shell, but in a public forum, I think it's really important for the film to have that kind of capital in the public space." Continuing he advocated for the nearly simultaneous festival and theatrical approach to releasing the movie, noting, "I'm a big fan of strangers coming together to discuss issues that affect us all."

While "Outrage" features formerly closeted politicians such as McGreevey and Frank, as mentioned the film will name prominent people in power today who have, until now, meticulously guarded their secret successfully. Magnolia believes this will create momentum as the movie rolls, and it will undoubtedly cause a sensation.

"We believe 'Outrage' will be getting a lot of attention from the media," said Bowles. "I think people will be curious about it, [and] people are going to want to know who the names are. There will also be interest of not always a noble nature. [But] the film is far from a witch hunt, it's a very responsible film. It's not just issues of gayness, it's about absolute hypocrisy. The film is not just dishy and snarky, it really stays on message. It has its funny moments, but it really deals with the whole hypocrisy issue."

Kirby Dick will participate in a pair of longer conversations about the movie days after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival: a Filmmaker Talk at the Apple Store Soho event with indieWIRE on Thursday, April 30th at 5:00 p.m. and a panel discussion with former New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, writer and radio host Michelangelo Signorile, and author & activist Rodger McFarlane at the Tribeca fest on Friday, May 1st.

"I think that if someone is in the closet and voting against gay rights then that's hypocrisy and that's cause for outing," Dick told indieWIRE, addressing the issue of responsibility and when it's appropriate to out people. "You can call it 'outing,' but honestly, it's just reporting... It's the same as someone who's had an abortion and then votes against abortion, it's hypocritical."

TAGS: Interviews

18 Comments

  • Joe | May 18, 2011 3:54 AMReply

    You are all a bunch of porn/crackheads

  • Peter Knegt | May 11, 2009 7:12 AMReply

    Not that I don't 100% agree with you on everything else, martin, but just fyi: Kirby Dick isn't gay.

  • martin dantich | May 11, 2009 4:56 AMReply

    Well, then if you see the film, or any of Kirby Dick's other work, or know anything about Kirby Dick, a courageous OUT filmmaker, you'll know that this film is not a homophobic tract. He exposes only closeted politicians who vote against gay rights initiatives, those who are detrimental, hypocritically, to the gay-rights movement. Of course, some may take it the wrong way and use it to their own nefarious ends, but those, of course, are the real homophobes.

  • misstickly | May 11, 2009 4:22 AMReply

    Martin:
    No I haven't seen it. According to the story above, I don' t need to see it to call it what it is.

    "...in this new movie he tackles the hypocrisy of closeted policymakers who openly campaign against the LGBT community they are secretly a part of."

    Sounds like discrimination against gay people to me. He isn't targeting straight republicans that openly vote against LGBT rights, too.

    He is profiling and targeting closeted gays exposing them to public humiliation.

    If someone tried to expose black republicans for "hypocrisy," I would call that racism.

  • martin dantich | May 8, 2009 8:18 AMReply

    I note that nowhere in your rant misstickly does it say that you saw the film. Obviously you haven't, because what you're saying makes no sense in the context of the actual film itself.

  • misstickly | May 8, 2009 8:01 AMReply

    This is obviously a decoy for a homophobic hate-group.

    This cannot be real.

    How is targeting GAYS (republican or otherwise) for ridicule and exposure on film NOT HOMOPHOBIA?

    Why aren’t the sexual habits of STRAIGHT republicans (or any politician that doesn't support LGBT rights) of equal interest to the people who participated in this lynching err...'investigative documentary'?

    Like other homophobes, these homophobes target the weak that have already been marginalized, oppressed or otherwise made to feel inferior. It's evident from the secrecy through which they live their lives that something has prevented them from coming out. As a straight person, I cannot even relate to such extents to hide something so critical to one's quality of life. To deny it has anything to do with the direct victimization by heterosexual, homophobes seeking to oppress LGBTs would be an outright lie. Anyone taking part in exposing these people on film while espousing 'hypocrisy' as a right to gay-bash should be ashamed.

    Why prey on those whose self esteem is so low they would actually vote against their own interest? Because that’s what bigots do. Too dumb to defend their own hate, they pick a weak target.

    Why don’t they go after people who aren’t the victims of the very OPPRESSION they are preaching against? Those people are ALL STRAIGHT. ALL of them. When oppression targets gay people as a whole, ALL gay people are victims and the consequences of that oppression are highlighted in this film: serious self-image issues that explain these politicians secretive lifestyles and their self-destructive support of anti-gay policy. SPOILER: the outed politicians are not 'hypocrites' like the trailers make you believe--this movie has a surprise premise.

    Outing these men means confronting them with their worst fear: exposure. This fear was CREATED UNIQUELY BY STRAIGHT, MEAN, HOMOPHOBIC PEOPLE belonging to a variety of political parties and religions.

    So, why profile (republican) GAYS and punish them for what are the psychological consequences of oppression and intolerance? Why challenge (republican) GAYS on their thinking but not those STRAIGHT people who seek to make gays THINK they are indeed inferior and unwanted? Why feign shock that some gays actually internalize this abuse, believe there is something wrong with themselves and hide from it? Yes, you see it in the republican party as you would see ANYWHERE, pick a place.

    Clearly, this is an ANTI-GAY witch hunt. Because this is either a complete hoax and they are trying to recruit members for their ANTI-GAY HATE CLUB; or this has to be THE DUMBEST effort to bring awareness to LBGT rights EVER.

    The only thing this uh, 'film' exposes is that hypocrisy is alive and well and the hypocrite behind this horrific idea is going to make some money at the expense of someone else's anguish. Enjoy your popcorn, while you get indoctrinated.

  • savdavid | April 14, 2009 6:13 AMReply

    I am looking forward to seeing this. We need more investigative films like this. Lord knows we aren't getting it from the mainstream media and we are damn sure not getting any real news from FoxNews (I do turn over occasionally to Fox to see if they are improving. They are not, they are getting more into GOP cheerleading than ever before). If you are afraid of Michael Moore or think this is "populist" then don't watch it. Problem solved.

  • leegrimsley | April 13, 2009 4:34 AMReply

    Sounds like MichaelMoore in drag

  • raguedes | April 11, 2009 8:29 AMReply

    I don't know about you guys, but for me this smells to be as populist and agenda driven as any Michael Moore work.
    Where are the Maysles brothers of today, making deep, insightful pieces?
    This whole idea of "outing" handpicked (I bet they are republicans, right?) supposedly gay politicians based on questionable personal accounts sound overall ridiculous.
    Of course that I still have to watch the final product, for only than can I judge if there is believable research and not some predefined ending monologue that has to be achieved at the cost of respect and truth.
    As much as a left wing, libertarian, guy that I am. And defender of equal human rights for everyone. And believing that people on par of their sexuality (and most people aren't , it takes different timing and circumstances for everyone) should express their disgust on the persecution most gays suffer from society. I also believe on the right of privacy, so forcefully "outing" people who, for personal reasons, don't want or should be "outed", just because they are the "bad guys" sounds inhuman and disrespectful. There are more proper forums for that, and certainly better subjects to take on the gay marriage issue.
    This kind of approach looks pseudo left minded for crafting media-explosive materials. It only serves to keep the fist fight going, while real people suffer.
    Good Job.
    Hope I'm wrong. and really hope that a proper discussion will be held someday to pass a nationwide equal rights bill.

  • hypersquared | April 11, 2009 4:16 AMReply

    raguedes:

    You offer intelligent comments, and I agree with you that outing anyone simply for the sake of outing them is patently wrong. If I'm reading the article correctly, though, it isn't Kirby Dick's aim simply to expose people's private lives for the benefit of scandal. Rather, he's calling out specific politicians who actively and publicly fight against the rights of gay people at the same time that they disguise their own gayness, presumably employing public resources in their effort to do so. The issue isn't what they do in private; the issue is that what they do in public - as public servants - and what they work so hard to deny everyday gay citizens, is so directly at odds with their truer, private lives.

    If it tends to focus on Republicans, that'll be largely because Republican politics have been more fervently anti-gay than Democratic politics. I honestly hope there's a Democrat among his subjects, because I'd like to see it appear less partisan, too, but it's probably much harder to find a Democrat who devotes that much energy to denying gay rights.

    I do hope that Dick will go beyond the muckraking to look at the human tragedy of people going to such great lengths to conceal and deny their true selves. There's a real opportunity in this subject matter to explore how society, parents, churches, etc, send the message that to be gay is to be sick, and the destructive life courses that sets people on - people who might otherwise have had the opportunity to do real good for their country.

  • moviedemon | April 10, 2009 12:55 PMReply

    Wow.

    I don't know why, but I really expected that indieWire would attract a higher class of readers. The commentary here is like something 14-year-olds would say in a high school locker room.

    I'm all for free speech - if you've got something worthwhile to say - but the freedom to spew any vulgar, childish nonsense you want is probably not what our forefathers had in mind.

    I don't think I'll be back...

  • the1joncook | April 10, 2009 12:33 PMReply

    It is a pity that the level of discourse is so low in many of these forums. Out of the seven comments I read only two could be considered adding to quality dialogue and Smidge's is questionable.

    I would like to think that this low level is coming mostly from people with a more right-sided political view, (my bias), but the reality is many on the left do the same.

  • Cuban_Pete | April 10, 2009 7:20 AMReply

    Barack Obama is the biggest closet queer in DC.

  • Cuban_Pete | April 10, 2009 7:19 AMReply

    No fair! We all know Barack sucks big donkey dongs in the Oval Office. They don't call him "Rahmbo" for nothing!

    Barack, stop wiping Rahm's nut shot off your face. Embrace the man on man love! This is 2009, baby! Embrace the change!

  • obamaisgay | April 10, 2009 5:28 AMReply

    This is stupid because he will never expose Obama's homosexuality. Michelle is his beard. Why not explore his relationship with Reggie Love and the other gay guy he just installed in the White House. Why not reveal just what is going on in the Lincoln Bedroom. It's fine if he is gay- but he should admit it and tell the truth. And this reporter, if he is truthful, would report on this gigantic lie by our president as well.

  • Smidge | April 9, 2009 7:59 AMReply

    Hmmmm let me guess is this supposed to make die hard conservatives all upset and not vote for these guys? Is this supposed to make us enraged? Earth to Richard Head sorry but no conservatives I know care what someone does behind closed doors. Hypocrisy? I find that an interesting word since if you even understood history you would know you are employing fascist tactics to destroy opponents to you lunatic agenda. I mean only someone with 0 intellect, 0 tolerance, 0 self awareness would be so stupid as to waste good money on something as ridiculously irrelevant as this. But, keep being you, bigot. Frankly most the homosexual men I know dislike people like you to Dick, and the reason why Dick? Can you guess? I hear the wind a whistling between your ears. That must be a pretty empty cranium you got.

  • pegu | April 9, 2009 7:29 AMReply

    do you like fish sticks?

  • micottrell | April 9, 2009 6:04 AMReply

    Bravo Dick as he exposes those politicos who hide their love for dick!!