Sunday, August 2, 2009

MIFF 2009 Review: Outrage

Dir. Kirby Dick
Year: 2009
Aus Rating: N/A
Running Time: 90mins

I imagine that one's enjoyment of and reaction to Kirby Dick's latest exposé documentary Outrage will depend almost in relation to one's beliefs about the issues it raises. The issues in this case are the outing of American politicians who have emphatically voted against gay rights issues, equality measures, AIDS funding and those who have actively tried to hide their sexuality in the closet as a means of furthering their career.

Understandably, there are many who disagree with Outrage on a moral level. They can be gay or straight, Republican or Democrat, male or female, because it is a very prickly issue, but one that I, personally, felt should be exposed. Many of the stories held within Kirby Dick's film are from a time when the Internet allowed many of these men to hide their sexualities and their exploits. One such case involves Terry Dolan, a prominent figure in the ushering in of the conservative era thanks to his role in the National Conservative Political Action Committee and how he was known amongst the gay community as a frequenter of the Flamingo gay club in New York City. At the time they would have gone undisclosed in a heavily conservative news and political system and for it amazed this viewer that stories such as these stretch back a long way.

Figures such as Dolan, since deceased from AIDS-related illness, are perhaps easy targets and it is there that Outrage will leave a bad taste in some audience members' mouths. I, however, thought it apt and definitely an important topic in regards to the hypocrisy of these people. The case that opens the film, and the case that has the best chance of being of knowledge to viewers, is that of Larry Craig is a thrilling tale and one that was still under-reported by those whose investment in gay rights issues is nil.

Dick's film isn't the stiff and severe movie you might be thinking it is. There is some wicked humour within, frequently thrown in due to the intelligent and witty talking heads such as Rodger McFarlane, and the sly nods to bad Freudian slips from the outed politicians. "Thanks for coming out today" says Larry Craig at a news conference. If only, right? And then just moments later it is tugging at the heartstrings as the cases of hate crimes are raised including Lawrence King, the 15-year-old who was shot dead by a classmate, and even moments of sadness such as the case of Dina McGreevey, the wife of a gay politician who came out after years of marriage. Kirby Dick manages to balance these out nicely and by films end I could have kept watching for another hour.

As someone who thinks the issues at hand are worth putting out in the open I appreciated the film. As a gay man whose rights are continuously thrown aside and ignored I found no real problem in outing the same people who made it their mission to stifle my rights. The film stresses that it is not interested in "outing" closeted gay politicians who have not gone out of their way to destroy the rights of other gay people. In that it exposes hypocrisy that we all know is there, but that others don't want to admit exists. If they did that it would mean there are actual gay people with prominent power and that they couldn't pretend homosexuals only exist on the fringes. And, for that, I think the film should have been been and should be seen. B+

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