Kirby Dick

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Kirby Dick
Kirby Dick Sundance cropped to head and collar.jpg
Kirby Dick at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival
Born (1952-08-23) August 23, 1952 (age 64)
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S. [1]
Occupation Director, producer, screenwriter, editor
Years active 1981–present
Spouse(s) Rita Valencia (1985-present)
Website Official website

Kirby Bryan Dick (born August 23, 1952)[2] is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and editor. He is best known for directing documentary films. He received Academy Award nominations for Best Documentary Feature for directing Twist of Faith (2005) and The Invisible War (2012).[3][4][5] He has also received numerous awards from film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival and Los Angeles Film Festival.

Life and career[edit]

Dick was born in Phoenix, Arizona. He studied at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, California Institute of the Arts, and the American Film Institute.[6] His first documentary feature, Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate (1986), enjoyed a successful festival run.

Dick spent the following decade pursuing a variety of projects while working on Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997). Sick examined the life of performance artist Bob Flanagan, who utilized sadomasochism as a therapeutic device to help cope with cystic fibrosis and agreed to participate in documentary only if his eventual death was included.[7] The film was an international festival hit, winning a Special Jury Prize at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival[6] and helping to establish Dick's position in the world of independent filmmaking.

His next film, Chain Camera (2001), was made entirely with footage shot on consumer digital video cameras by students at John Marshall High School, located near Dick's home in Los Angeles. The film premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Dick followed up this project with Derrida (2002), which he co-directed with Amy Ziering. The film explores the life and work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida while questioning the limitations of biography. It won the Golden Gate Award at the 2002 San Francisco International Film Festival.

Dick's next project, Twist of Faith (2005), followed a man who decides to speak out about his childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest. Released during the midst of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, the film garnered widespread attention and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.[3][4]

Twist of Faith marked the beginning of a politicization of Dick's work, as his subsequent films would similarly expose the hypocrisy of powerful organizations. This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006) investigated the Motion Picture Association of America and its secretive ratings board. The film argues that the MPAA serves the interests of the major Hollywood studios at the expense of independent filmmakers and also that the organization often turns a blind eye to violence while working to effectively censor sexual content, especially when it involves homosexuality or female sexual empowerment.

Dick's 2009 film, Outrage, discusses supposedly closeted politicians, predominantly Republican, who vote against gay rights. The film also criticizes the mainstream media's reluctance to report on this subject. The film received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Investigative Journalism.

The Invisible War[edit]

In 2012, Dick directed The Invisible War, which examined the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military. The film was heralded for exposing a culture of sexual abuse at Marine Barracks Washington.[8] Several government officials have commented on the film's influence on policy, including Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has stated that viewing the film convinced him to implement a wave of reforms designed to reduce the prevalence of military sexual assault.[9]

The film’s revelations have also been discussed in congressional hearings and spurred lawmakers to seek better safeguards for assault survivors.[10] Senator Kirsten Gillibrand credits the film with inspiring her to introduce the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would establish an independent judiciary to oversee accusations of sexual assault in the armed forces.[11]

Among other honors, The Invisible War received a nomination for Best Documentary Feature at the 85th Academy Awards and won Emmy Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Outstanding Investigative Journalism.[12][13]


Dick's work often focuses on issues of secrecy, hypocrisy, and human sexuality. Many of his films explore subjects and issues that have traditionally been taboo, such as homosexuality, sadomasochism, and sexual abuse. Ryan Stewart of Cinematical notes that, "Kirby Dick has been compared to photographer Diane Arbus in the way he prefers to open the camera lens to the pained, the freakish and the inexplicable that exists on the margins of everyday life."[14]

Aesthetically, Dick often employs intricately edited montages that blend together television news clips, archival footage, music videos, documentary interviews, and other sources. Beginning with This Film Is Not Yet Rated, he has also pioneered applying the "fair use" doctrine to appropriate copyrighted footage without the need to obtain licenses or compensate rights holders.[15]

Dick often employs a cinéma vérité style of filmmaking. He has said that he prefers to work this way because it allows for a more complex relationship with his subjects.[16] In many cases, Dick has also encouraged his subjects to record their own footage, which is then incorporated into the finished film.

His later works have often involved investigations into powerful organizations, such as the Catholic Church or the United States military. Critics have increasingly remarked on the impact of his films as investigative journalism,[17][18] with The New York Times's A. O. Scott saying that, "Kirby Dick has become one of the indispensable muckrakers of American cinema, zeroing in on frequently painful stories about how power functions in the absence or failure of accountability."[19]


Year Film Role Subject matter of film
1981 Men Who Are Men Director, Producer
1986 Private Practices: The Story of a Sex Surrogate Director, Producer Sex surrogate Maureen Sullivan
1987 I Am Not a Freak Writer, Editor
1988 Patti Rocks First assistant director
1997 Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist Director, Producer, Editor, Camera Performance artist Bob Flanagan
Guy Writer
2001 Chain Camera Director Students at John Marshall High School in Los Angeles
2002 Derrida Director, Editor Jacques Derrida
2003 Showgirls: Glitz & Angst Director, Executive producer
2004 The End Director
2005 Twist of Faith Director, Executive producer Sexual abuse within the Catholic Church
2006 This Film Is Not Yet Rated Director, Writer, Camera The Motion Picture Association of America's film rating system
2009 Outrage Director, Writer, Camera Closeted gay or bisexual politicians who promote anti-gay legislation
2012 The Invisible War Director, Writer Sexual assault in the United States military
2014 The Hunting Ground Director, Writer Rape on college campuses

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Organization Work Category Result
1997 Special Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival SICK: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist Documentary Feature Won[20]
Grand Prize Los Angeles Film Festival Documentary Feature Won[20]
2001 Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival Chain Camera Documentary Nominated[21]
2002 Golden Gate Award San Francisco Film Festival Derrida Documentary Feature Won[20]
Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival Documentary Nominated[22]
2005 Academy Award Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Twist of Faith Best Documentary Nominated[3][4]
Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival Documentary Nominated[23]
2006 Austin Film Critics Award Austin Film Critics Association This Film Is Not Yet Rated Best Documentary Won[24][25][26]
Critics Choice Award Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Documentary Feature Nominated[25][26][27]
2007 Golden Trailer Award Golden Trailer Awards Best Documentary Won[28][29][30]
GLAAD Media Award Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Outstanding Documentary Nominated[31][32][33]
2009 Jury Award Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Outrage Best Documentary Won[34]
2010 Emmy Award National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Outstanding Investigative Journalism: Long Form Nominated[35]
2012 Audience Award Sundance Film Festival The Invisible War Best Documentary Won[36][37]
Nestor Almendros Award Human Rights Watch Film Festival Courage in Filmmaking Won[38]
Silver Heart Award Dallas International Film Festival Humanitarian Award Won[39]
Audience Award Seattle International Film Festival Best Documentary Won[40]
Audience Award Provincetown International Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Won[41]
Best of Festival DocuWest International Documentary Film Festival Humanitarian Award Won[42]
Advocacy Award Peace Over Violence Humanitarian Award Won[43]
IDA Award International Documentary Association Best Feature Nominated[44]
2013 Spirit Award Film Independent Best Documentary Won[45]
WGA Award Writers Guild of America Best Documentary Screenplay Nominated[46]
Academy Award Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary Feature Nominated[12]
DGA Award Directors Guild of America Documentary Directing Nominated[47]
Ridenhour Prize The Nation Institute Documentary Film Won[48]
Peabody Award The Peabody Awards Won[49]
Impact Award BRITDOC Foundation Jury Special Commendation Won[50]
2014 Emmy Award National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Best Documentary Feature Won[13]
Outstanding Investigative Journalism – Long Form Won[13]


  1. ^ "Kirby Dick". International Film Festival Rotterdam. Archived from the original on September 23, 2014. Retrieved September 23, 2014. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Blade staff and David Germain (Associated Press) (January 26, 2005). "Academy Award nominations - Aviator's 11 Howard Hughes biopic leads Oscar nomination". The Blade. Toledo, Ohio. p. D1. 
  4. ^ a b c Aufderheide, Pat (February 13, 2005). "Docs, Good for What Ails Us? - Social-Minded Films Add Entertainment Values to Their Messages". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. p. N3. 
  5. ^ "The Invisible War - Documentary Feature - Oscars 2013". ABC. Retrieved 21 January 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Kirby Dick Official Website". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Dawson, Stephanie (2012-06-19). "Film Review: The Invisible War". Limité. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  9. ^ Panetta, Leon (2014). Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace. New York: Penguin. p. 453. 
  10. ^ Rohter, Larry (January 23, 2013). "A Documentarian Focused on Trauma in Its Many Forms". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 April 2013. 
  11. ^ Huval, Rebecca (10 May 2013). "Sen. Gillibrand Credits The Invisible War with Shaping New Bill". PBS. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Oscars 2013: Complete list of nominees". The Los Angeles Times. January 10, 2013. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c "NATIONAL ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS AND SCIENCES ANNOUNCES WINNERS AT THE 35TH ANNUAL NEWS & DOCUMENTARY EMMY AWARDS". The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 30 September 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  14. ^ Stewart, Ryan (2006-08-30). "Interview: Kirby Dick, Director, This Film Is Not Yet Rated". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (2007-02-22). "Insurance for documentary 'fair use'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  16. ^ Dick, Kirby; Amy Ziering Kofman (2005). Derrida. Routledge. p. 48. ISBN 0-415-97407-0. 
  17. ^ Kim, Jonathan (2012-06-20). "ReThink Interview: Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering on The Invisible War". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  18. ^ Bittencourt, Ela (2012-06-13). "Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2012: The Invisible War". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  19. ^ Scott, A. O. (2012-06-21). "For Some Who Served, an Awful Betrayal of Trust: 'The Invisible War,' directed by Kirby Dick". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-01-09. 
  20. ^ a b c Man, Anthony (May 14, 2009). "Outrage movie: Watch the trailer, read the reviews". Sun Sentinel. Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 
  21. ^ Caro, Mark (January 18, 2001). "Tempo". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. 
  22. ^ Miller, Melinda (November 28, 2001). "Sundance 2002 Opens With 'Laramie Project' - Sundance: Fresh, Familiar Faces at Festival". The Salt Lake Tribune. p. D1. 
  23. ^ "Feelin' a draft in N.C.". Bucks County Courier Times. Levittown, Pennsylvania. June 28, 2005. p. 5E. 
  24. ^ Austin Film Critics Association (January 2, 2007). "2006 Awards". Austin Film Critics Awards. Austin, Texas: Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b "This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2005) - Awards". The New York Times. The New York Times Company; 2010. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b "This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2005) - Awards". Allmovie. Rovi Corp; 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  27. ^ Roger Moore (December 13, 2006). "Friday, This Film is Not Yet Rated". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  28. ^ "GTA 8 WINNER - Best Documentary Trailer". Golden Trailer Awards. 2009. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  29. ^ "8th Annual Golden Trailer Award Winner and Nominees". Golden Trailer Awards. May 31, 2007. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  30. ^ Edward Douglas (May 31, 2007). "The 8th Annual Golden Trailer Awards Winners!". Crave Online Media, LLC. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  31. ^ Kevin Wicks (January 22, 2007). "BBC America scores two GLAAD Media Award nominations". BBC America. BBC Worldwide Americas, Inc.; Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  32. ^ Go Mag News Staff (June 10, 2009). "Controversial Documentary Outs Closeted Anti-gay Politicians". GO Magazine. GO NYC Media, LLC.; Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  33. ^ Richard Ferraro (January 21, 2007). "GLAAD anuncia los nominados y galardonados especiales de la decimo octava ceremonia anual de los premios GLAAD". Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (in Spanish). Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  34. ^ "Best Documentary". Awards for 2009. Miami, Florida: Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. April 24, 2009. 
  35. ^ Popkey, Dan (July 21, 2010). "Two films with Idaho political connections to be honored at Emmy Awards". The Idaho Statesman. 
  36. ^ Jonathan Riskind (February 26, 2012). "Collins, Snowe rank as least conservative GOP senators". Maine Sunday Telegram. MaineToday Media, Inc.; Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  37. ^ "British film continues to shine at Sundance". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited; February 8, 2012. Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  38. ^ "Sundance: The Invisible War at The Human Rights Watch Film Festival". Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  39. ^ Libresco, Caroline. "Silver Heart Award Winner: The Invisible War". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  40. ^ "SIFF 2012 Award Winners". Retrieved 2013-01-08. 
  41. ^ "Provincetown International Film Festival". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  42. ^ "DocuWest International Documentary Film Festival: September 11-15, 2013". Retrieved 2013-02-28. 
  43. ^ "Annual Humanitarian Awards - Peace Over Violence". Retrieved 2013-02-28. 
  44. ^ "IDA Documentary Awards 2012". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  45. ^ "The Invisible War - Spirit Awards 2013". Retrieved 2013-02-28. 
  46. ^ Kilday, Gregg (January 4, 2012). "WGA Announces Nominations Ranging from 'Lincoln' to 'Looper'". Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  47. ^ Ford, Rebecca (January 14, 2013). "DGA Awards Documentary Nominations Announced". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 16 January 2013. 
  48. ^ Lee, Diana (February 22, 2013). "2013 Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize Winner Announced". The Nation Institute. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  49. ^ 73rd Annual Peabody Awards, May 2014.
  50. ^ "PUMA Impact Award Goes to...The Act of Killing". BRITDOC Foundation. 14 November 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 

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