His most recent projects seem more journalistic than outright artistic, and he welcomes working that niche.
"In some ways, the demise of the investigative reporting departments in so many newspapers has left wide-open territory for documentary filmmakers," Dick says.
"It's allowed me to pursue subjects that otherwise the press might have been pursuing." In August 2006, during a visit promoting "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" in Washington, the director found his next project.
Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick's latest exposé, "Outrage," promises to be a PR nightmare for certain closeted gay politicians. But there is a special place in his heart for one particular conservative lawmaker: Larry Craig, the former senator from Idaho, who was famously busted in 2007 on suspicion of lewd behavior in a Minneapolis airport men's room. The disgrace that befell Craig was itself a disgrace, in the director's view. The closet, he points out, forces those who engage in homosexual acts to lead lives of elaborate deception, to betray their spouses, to seek anonymous sex.
He portrays these officials -- overwhelmingly Republican, with anti-gay voting records -- as hypocrites of the worst sort. (As "Outrage" begins, we hear Craig insisting to the undercover officer, "I don't seek activity in bathrooms." It plays as a laugh line.) Still, a conversation with Dick, who was in Washington last week to promote Friday's opening of the movie here, suggests a thoughtful auteur who does, on some level, pity his subjects even as his unforgiving camera attempts to strip them of their secret sexuality.
"And I feel empathy for him." This may seem an ironic, if not inauthentic, display of sympathy, given that the film makes good use of the police audiotapes released after Craig's arrest.
I don't think that the police should be in that bathroom entrapping people." Craig, he argues, was a victim of societal homophobia.
Conservative public officials who are gay, the film argues, adopt protective camouflage by opposing any legislation -- HIV/AIDS funding, benefits for unmarried partners, same-sex marriage -- that might identify them as pro-gay: It's a tactic that sets up an interior war against their essential selves.
"The psychology of these people who would, in exchange for a political career, lead a double life, that's almost a Shakespearean character," Dick says.
This dissonance is part of what attracted him to the topic.
It supplies a depth to the screen proceedings beyond mere prurience.
It also adds to the director's more direct message: He wants to "advance the cause of gay rights," including same-sex marriage, he says. A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood with his wife of 23 years, actress Rita Valencia.
And, "I hope that this film contributes in some ways to the lessening and perhaps eventual demise of the closet." Dick, 56, is a lanky man whose features weirdly recall an older Andy Dick (no relation). They have a 22-year-old daughter and 19-year-old son.
"Outrage" will initially open in five cities before wider release.