USA, 2008, 73 min
Shown in 2008
COMMENTSIn GGA competition. Director Johnny Symons and subject Al Steinman in attendance.
November 2008 will mark the 15th anniversary of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with very little to celebrate. More than 12,000 service members, from new recruits to senior officers, have been discharged since its inception and, despite the fact that recruitment goals are consistently unmet in this time of war, willing, able and highly qualified men and women are unable to enlist. Award-winning Bay Area filmmaker Johnny Symons (Daddy & Papa, SFIFF 2002) adds to his string of excellent documentaries on gay culture with this stinging examination of the policy’s failure and injustice. Ask Not approaches the issue from three perspectives, following an upstart group of young gays and lesbians promoting a Right to Serve campaign in which they attempt to enlist as openly homosexual candidates; documenting the efforts of former soldiers to expose the policy’s flaws by sharing their personal experiences with military and civilian audiences; and creating a video diary of one San Francisco soldier’s retreat into the closet as he heads off to Baghdad. Referencing Harry S. Truman’s controversial military desegregation act of 1948, Symons reflects on what many considered to be President Bill Clinton’s failure to do right by the gay community when he signed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” into law, placing the issue squarely back before the American people. Warmly personal, politically incisive and straightforward, Ask Not should be required viewing this election season.