CIFF Review: Ask Not
Ask Not (2009)–***
Don’t ask a film like Ask Not to be unbiased. This documentary about the U.S. Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy has a single charge: to educate people in the absurdity of a policy effectively banning gays from military service.
For anyone not familiar with the failures of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Ask Not is a rapid fire, point-by-point argument for the abolishment of the ludicrous military law. But for your above-average news consumer, or even a regular “The Daily Show” viewer, the documentary isn’t an enlightening experience. More unfortunately, it’s not an emotional journey.
The fault is in Ask Not‘s subjects, mostly activists touring the country educating college students or participating in sit-ins at recruiting stations. We don’t spend enough time with any given individual to see the true harm of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Their stories are brief, almost an afterthought, possibly because their military service always made their personal lives take a back seat to the mission. Only “Perry,” a gay serviceman on a tour of duty in Iraq, gives the audience something to hang onto as he risks his life serving in a military that would kick him out if it knew he was gay.
Still, Ask Not has one thing going for it: it gives the impression that the 15-year-old policy will soon come to an end. The glimmer of hope when a statistic saying 70 percent of military personnel would be comfortable serving someone who is gay makes sitting through a rather unexciting documentary worth it. And in the words of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, “You gotta give ‘em hope.”
Ask Not is directed by Johnny Symons and was screened at the 33rd Cleveland International Film Festival. More at www.asknotfilm.com.