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Sunday, May 25, 2008

SIFF Sighting: ASK NOT (documentary; USA/Iraq/UK)

ASK NOT provides a telling look at how much the American military is losing by continuing to discriminate against its gay and lesbian soldiers (or would-be soldiers).

The filmmakers interview several men and women who were successful in the military but were discharged when their sexual orientation was revealed. Many of them are expert linguists in Arabic, Korean, etc. (a.k.a. the translators we need most) and have a strong sense of duty that is now being unfulfilled. A particularly harrowing scene shows a former soldier lecturing a community about how the last Al Quaeda memos prior to 9/11, which may have prevented the depth of the attack, went unread because there weren't a sufficient amount of linguists to translate them in ample time.

Another part of the film shows young would-be recruits going on a "right to serve" tour to various military offices, where they attempt to enlist (on camera) but are then rejected when they reveal they are gay or lesbian. Many of the military representatives are kind and sympathetic to their mission, but simply have to uphold the law and deny them entry.

The movie is made in an honest and forthright manner, presenting the facts with statistics to back them up and hopeful glimpses from other countries (Ireland, England, Israel, etc.) that have lifted their bans on gays in the military with favorable results.

Every registered American voter should be required to see this film. It's amazing in this day and age that injustices such as these still reside in the "land of the free."

ASK NOT will be shown Thursday, May 29 at the Harvard Exit theater as part of the 34th Annual Seattle International Film Festival.


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