No one has ever accused documentarian Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) of lacking testicular fortitude. Stylistically his aptly titled new film Outrage is a conservative parade of talking heads and statistics but it’s incredibly audacious all the same. Dick’s incendiary film about closeted gay politicians doesn’t just document blogactive.com activist Michael Rogers’ crusade to out prominent Republicans. It also names names, most notably Florida governor Charlie Crist, a rising star in the party whose name was bandied about as a potential vice presidential nominee in the last election. Instead John McCain chose a woman whose sexuality has never been in question, just her experience, competence, and intelligence.
Dick’s film chronicles the efforts of Rogers and controversial writer/talk show host Michelangelo Signorile to expose the hypocrisy of politicians who work tirelessly to oppress the very people they’re furtively fucking. Dick also interviews politicians who’ve come out of the closet, willingly or unwillingly; in a particularly riveting segment, former New Jersey governor James McGreevey talks with perhaps unwise candor about how self-hatred and a fierce desire to hide his sexuality led to desperate measures like seeking out anonymous sex in abandoned synagogues. In Outrage, the entire political culture of Washington D.C. is both gay and closeted; without gays, the wheels of government would grind to a halt, argues one interviewee. Another posits the nation’s capitol as just as gay as San Francisco, if not more so.
Audience reaction to Outrage will depend heavily on how people feel about outing. Dick’s film probably won’t persuade anyone who finds the practice to be a loathsome and intrusive invasion of privacy, but after a relatively dry beginning, the film builds in passion and intensity until attaining a stirring cumulative power. Dick understands the old maxim to show rather than tell: the visual contrast between the ease and comfort of out politicians like McGreevey, Tammy Baldwin, and the devastatingly blunt and witty Barney Frank and the flopsweat-soaked, panicky denials of closeted, gay-unfriendly politicians (Larry Craig, cough, cough) makes Dick’s case about the devastating psychological costs of staying in the closet.