Coming Out

Director: Ted Reed

Institute History

  • 1989 Sundance Film Festival


Coming Out recycles—and rejuvenates—the traditions of cinema verite’ filmmaking, selecting as its subject the rituals and romance surrounding a national debutantes’ ball in Washington, D.C. In proper verite’ tradition, the filmmakers follow one deb-to-be, Jill, part of a new generation of Washington’s finest, as she prepares for the event. Like many others, she sees beyond the social aspects of the ball to the valuable career and business connections that may result from it.

The filmmakers also focus on a second figure, Miss Mary Stuart Montague Price, founder and chairman (sic) of the ball. Armed with several massive Rolodexes and a persuasive voice, Ms. Price organizes this complex annual event, arranging for dressmakers, florists and the cadet escorts who will present the thirty-five hand-picked debs to Washington society.

Using a hand-held camera and black-and-white images without narration, Coming Out really captures the feeling of Ricky Leacock documentary, circa 1964. But what an appropriate matching of form to content: a twenty-year-old film style is resurrected to record a phenomenon that should have died off in the sixties. The renewed popularity of “coming out” today is just another sign of the conservatizing of America. (Clearly to these young women, networking is more important than matchmaking). This, perhaps, is the understated editorial message of Coming Out, a subtext we have make explicit by co-billing it with Cover-up.

— Tony Safford

Screening Details


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