I spoke with filmmakers Fenton Bailey (he’s the one with the British accent) and Randy Barbato on September 14, 2011 in the afternoon before their HBO documentary, THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL, screened at the fabled Castro Theater here in San Francisco. The pair were excited to see the film with an audience, particularly the one that would be at the Castro. The film covers the how Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell happened, what it’s consequences were for service men and women forced to stay in the closet, and the shifting nature of prejudice against gays and lesbians over time. During the conversation, they talked about how avoiding journalistic detachment fuels their filmmaking, pondered the shift from facts to fiction when running government policy in the late 20th century, and how working on several projects at once is an important part of their process.
THE STRANGE HISTORY OF DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL debuting September 20 on that cable channel is Bailey and Barbato’s film that uses contemporary interviews and archival footage to cover the history of gays in the military, the peculiar twists and turns that led to President Clinton’s eponymous policy, and the unintended consequences of its enforcement, all leading up to a heart-stopping final showdown of a final vote in Congress that may have been the last chance for repeal. Since 1990, their production company, World of Wonder, has gifted the world with through-provoking, paradigm-shifting, and distinctly entertaining films such as PARTY MONSTER, doc and feature, about murder among New York’s club kids, THE EYES OF TAMMY FAY, that showed us that there was much more than met the eye about the late televangelist, and more recently BECOMING CHAZ, which followed the former Chastity Bono has he transitions from female to male.