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Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick has gone after the Catholic Church and the MPAA ratings board, but those targets seem like shooting ducks on a pond compared to those in his latest effort. Exposing closeted gay politicians who live a secret homosexual life even while working against the interests of the gay and lesbian community, "Outrage" more than lives up to its title and should spark vociferous debate. The film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, will be released Friday by Magnolia Pictures.

The film justifies its bound-to-be controversial mission with the thesis that the private lives of political figures, which would normally be left off the table, are open for public scrutiny if they demonstrate an essential hypocrisy in their actions.

Reasonable people can disagree about this, but assuming you accept its central idea, "Outrage" is an engrossing and entertaining polemic that successfully walks a fine line between thoughtful debate and, well, juicy gossip.

Beginning with audio snippets of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's inadvertently hilarious police interrogation after being accused of soliciting in an airport bathroom, the film takes no prisoners.

Among those who come into the filmmaker's cross hairs are Ken Mehlman, manager of President Bush's 2004 campaign, as well as more than a few present and former members of Congress. But the biggest — and bound to be most controversial — target is Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is painted as gay by the testimony of several credible interviewees despite his longstanding assertions to the contrary.

The film's most moving testimony is by James McGreevey, the New Jersey governor who resigned his position after declaring his homosexuality and admitting to an affair with a male aide. Also weighing in thoughtfully are such self-declared gay politicians as Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin, as well as media figures like radio personality Michael Signorile and playwrights Tony Kushner and Larry Kramer.

Despite some lapses into hyperbole, "Outrage" is a vital and timely cinematic assault on the hypocrites in our midst. (partialdiff)
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