Playing one night only at a suds-and-cinema nightclub isn't the usual debut for any movie.
Yet most films aren't as defiantly wayward from the mainstream as Kirby Dick's documentary, Outrage, focused on politicians hiding their homosexuality while cramping gay rights.
Wednesday night, Tampa Bay moviegoers get possibly their only look at Outrage, part of a monthly film series at Tampa Pitcher Show, sponsored by community radio station WMNF (88.5 FM).
"We've had films about mountain top removal and Colombian drug wars," said WMNF news and public affairs director Rob Lorei. "But this is the one that perhaps hits closest to home."
That's because one politician in Dick's crosshairs is Gov. Charlie Crist, amplifying whispers of his sexual orientation. Outrage sometimes draws conclusions about Crist and others from innuendo and hearsay, in the tradition of outings in the alternative media.
Other targets include former New York City mayor Ed Koch and former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig with his infamous public restroom arrest, after repeatedly voting against assistance for AIDS and hate crime victims.
"Frankly, we didn't pick it because of Charlie's involvement," Lorei said, "(but) because it's a hot topic right now. There seems to be a lot of talk about sex and (politicians)."
Like South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford confessing marital infidelities, including an Argentina rendezvous with his mistress, and former presidential candidate John Edwards and Nevada Sen. John Ensign admitting they cheated on their wives.
But those are heterosexual indiscretions often more easily forgiven than homosexual ones. Especially if, as Dick claims, the politicians in question are hypocrites living one way and voting another, opposing gay rights issues.
Dick claims "a brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy" keeps gay politicians in the closet. That may also be said about the extremely limited release of Outrage. To be fair, none of Dick's films have been widely seen in theaters.
The openly gay filmmaker previously applied his accusatory style to deviant Catholic priests (Twist of Faith) and an MPAA ratings board tougher on sex than violence (This Film is Not Yet Rated).
Ironically, it is Dick's attitude toward the MPAA affecting Outrage's limited national release; only 18 theaters at its peak. Dick declined to submit Outrage to the MPAA ratings board. Theater chains are reluctant to book unrated movies and some media outlets — not including the St. Petersburg Times — won't publish advertising for them.
Outrage had brief runs in Miami, Orlando and Gainesville, with media coverage focused on Crist's inclusion. Dick's "evidence" is plausibly deniable: Two anonymous, silhouetted interview subjects offer hearsay from men claiming to have had sex with Crist, and who reportedly left Florida during his gubernatorial campaign. Dick notes that Crist's first marriage ended in divorce after six months, and his ex-wife now lives with a lesbian partner, implying guilt by disassociation.
The most sensational straw Dick grabs is Katie Keyniger, who dated Crist and declines comment on his sexual orientation: "I think I should keep my mouth shut. Call me in 10 years and I'll tell you a story," he quotes her as saying.
Lorei said Dick brought a film crew to WMNF while producing Outrage, shooting a talk show before Crist's 2008 wedding to Carole Rome, while callers planned pro-gay protests near the event. That footage didn't make the final cut, although the newlyweds are shown in incriminating slow motion outside a St. Petersburg church, while noting Crist's support of banning same-sex marriage.
That segment again suggests truth for documentarians springs from editing rooms where words and pictures can be shaped into the filmmaker's beliefs. Outrage billows enough smoke about Crist to insinuate there's a fire somewhere.
Steve Persall can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs.tampabay.com.