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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    At the Table with ‘Outrage’ director Kirby Dick

    This week the Arizona Daily Wildcat had the privilege to sit down and talk politics with director Kirby Dick about his new critically acclaimed documentary “”Outrage.”” The film focuses on the hypocrisy of closeted politicians with anti-gay voting records and the political culture surrounding these politicians. Dick was born in Tucson, but has spent his adult life traveling around the United States and other parts of the world. He took a moment to sit down at Epic Café and talk about his film before his question-answer session at The Loft on Saturday. Dick talks about his development as a filmmaker, and also gives a deeper look at his intentions in filming “”Outrage.””

    How do you think Tucson affected you as a filmmaker and your path?

    I think that a lot of my work – in fact all of my work in one way or another – has been about outsiders in a way. When you come from Tucson, the power network in this country is still sort of a Boston-New York-Washington axis. And, in fact, “”Outrage”” takes that on. I never felt I came from any privilege or power and I always sort of had a critique of people that had that feeling of privilege in a way. I also understand the middle America, nonpretentious kind of thing. […] I think it’s true of Tucson that there is an acceptance of people who are “”different.””

    Arizona Representative Jim Kolbe is highlighted in your film as a success story for closeted politicians coming out. He talks in the film about the freeing nature and health that comes with removing the curtain of secrecy, so to speak, and he has gone on to do amazing things to prop up the gay rights movement and to block discriminatory marriage legislation from being passed. Should Arizona be proud of Jim?

    Arizona should be proud of the fact that it’s the only state that voted down a gay marriage ban in the country. I think that’s impressive. That (Arizona), for five terms, elected what I believe was the only out gay Republican member of Congress. So absolutely, yes. They should pat themselves on the back (laughs).

    In an interview with the Los Angeles Times you said that, “”Gay rights is the most important human rights issue in the country at this point.”” I agree with your statement that “”we are all harmed by the fact that gays and lesbians don’t have full human rights.”” But what, in your opinion, puts gay rights above other problems like immigration issues, unemployment, deficits, etc.?

    I really meant in terms of minority rights. One can argue that there not being enough jobs for people, or being homeless, these are human rights being violated in another way. But I guess I meant it in terms of, at this moment, this is the minority that is most explosively being denied equality.

    Now, let’s be honest – throughout history, there have been gay men who kept their sexual preference a secret. Why do you think outing has become such a forefront issue today? What is different?

    Well there’s sort of two periods. One was the 1990s, which was a reaction to AIDS. Part of what I cover in the film is that so many of the people in the Reagan administration were closeted and many of those people could have done something to combat AIDS and didn’t, and in part didn’t because they were closeted. And so at some point, activists realized that we have people that are not doing something and as a result people are dying, so we have to get the truth out of this issue.

    I think it rose to a head again in the last few years because of the way the Republican party has used the anti-gay strategies to get power and keep power. Certainly in 2004 when Bush tried to push through the Federal Marriage Amendment. I think that’s what caused the second wave to start. It was that everybody in D.C. – gay Democrat, gay Republicans – were working behind the scenes to fight the amendment, but since it’s such a political town, a careful town, no one was coming out and saying, “”This is hurting us.”” So, Micheal Rogers, the angry activist, basically said, “”I’m going to start naming names.””

    But I think this (outing trend) will diminish, firstly, as more and more gay rights are granted because you won’t have these closeted politicians voting anti-gay – they won’t be affecting legislation as much. And secondly, I think there will just be a general acceptance of gay rights across the country and it won’t be as much of an issue.

    Do you think that, if given the chance, any politicians that you criticize in your film would have used the documentary as an opportunity to come out?

    I don’t. If I had thought that, I would have approached them. But no, the history has been so 100 percent consistent that they would either deny it or avoid it.

    In fact, what I did was, in a different way, I looked very hard to find someone – not a politician because I don’t think I would have found one – but a staffer that was closeted who could come out in the film on their own terms. Really, all they had to do was say, “”Look, this is my story and I’m coming forward.”” I would be very careful with their story because that is a big step they were taking, but I couldn’t find anyone. And we were all very surprised because a lot of the people in D.C. that I was working with thought we would be able to find someone, and even that step at that lower level was impossible. So no, for politicians, that [coming out on film] would never happen.

    In previous interviews, I noticed that a lot of the reporters only focused on the hypocrisy and the dirty dealing addressed in your film – really focusing on the essence of your film title “”Outrage,”” rather than reconciliation. How would you like to see that conversation change, if at all, in order to continue to advance the cause of gay rights?

    I actually like the controversy because it brings attention to an issue that has not had attention. If people are not talking about this, if people are not writing about this, then people can go into politics thinking they can be in the closet their whole life. One of the most important things that I wanted to achieve, and I think it’s already been achieved, is that there has been a great deal of attention put on this and the mainstream media is already rethinking how they approach this issue.

    But in the long term, a lot of the people came out of the film and said they found the film sad. And I think that’s because these politicians are also victims to homophobia. Even if they vote anti-gay and really have a horrible anti-gay voting record, they’re still victims. And I think that’s where people’s reactions are coming from. Why can’t we just let our politicians be who they’re going to be? Love who they’re going to love? Have sex with who they want to have sex with? It’s very sad that these people, these human beings, are put under this. That’s one of the things I hope people walk away with. Lets just accept people for who they are. Let them live their lives, and get on with the business of running this country.

    It’s incredibly difficult to explicitly state the line between public and private life, particularly when you’re a politician. And there are two quotes from your movie that I think highlight this difficulty and this graying between public and private life. Larry Kramer is quoted in your movie saying, “”Gay people don’t have rights. That’s why making these relationships public is so important,”” and another interviewee says, “”Hate is generational.”” In reference to those sentiments, do you think reporting on the private lives of this generation will ensure rights for the next generation?

    I think that one has an obligation as a journalist to report on hypocrisy, wherever it is. For example, say a woman has an abortion, which is a very private act, and then goes out and campaigns against abortion. Sure you’re exposing something about their private life, but you don’t necessarily have to go in and show the abortion, just like you don’t have to go and describe what type of sex people have and all that stuff. You’re really only reporting on the hypocrisy. And that really is important because if that doesn’t happen then this democracy continues and there’s incredible damage into the political system. It’s journalists more than anyone else who can help keep hypocrisy in check.

    What comment do you think this whole situation of people playing against their own identity group in the political arena has on the democratic system in this country?

    Well, I think it really is very corrosive on so many levels. Take a politician who is closeted and is surrounded by a staff who is also helping him keep a secret. A whole group of people around the politician is propping up a lie. On that level, it’s certainly very corrosive. Within the political arena, transparency and honest is certainly always the best. Anything but transparency harms the political system.

    “”Outrage”” is now playing at The Loft for a limited time. Check online at www.loftcinema.com or call 795-7777 for showtimes.

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