Coming Out Under Fire

Director: Arthur Dong
Screenwriters: Allan Bérubé, Arthur Dong

Institute History

  • 1994 Sundance Film Festival


It (homosexuality) was never a problem I don't think anybody thought about it. Everybody was too worried, day to day, to make sure that we were going to be alive tomorrow

So says one of the ten gay and lesbian veterans of World War II who tell their stories in Arthur Dong's film, based on Alan Berube's critically acclaimed book, Coming Out Under Fire. Framed by the recent Nunn Senate hearings challenging President Clinton's initial pledge to lift the U.S military's ban on homosexuals, these reminiscences offer telling counterpoint to this most recent example of homophobia and governmental waffling.

For many Americans, this escalating conflict between a powerful federal agency and a class of American citizens seemed to come out of nowhere. But the stage for the current debate was set long ago during World War II, when the military first adopted its policies to identify, reject and discharge homosexuals as mentally ill. The film uncovers the story of the men and women who found themselves fighting two wars one for their country, and the other as the first targets of policies that sought to discharge them as "undesirables." They were rounded up in witch hunts, locked up In "queer" stockades and stigmatized as "sex perverts" by the very country they were serving.

The film's subjects, warmly shot in black and white, express their share of sadness and rue, but have also, happily, retained healthy dollops of both humor and anger—all tempered by a sage perspective that only maturity can bring. Their histories shed eloquent light on the latest bureaucratic machinations of bigotry

based on the novel Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II

— Robert Hawk

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards


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