Kirby Dick

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Kirby Dick
Dick at the 2014 Peabody Awards
Born (1952-08-23) August 23, 1952 (age 67)
EducationAFI Conservatory
OccupationDirector, producer, screenwriter, editor
Years active1981–present
Spouse(s)Rita Valencia (1985-present)
WebsiteOfficial 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 AFI Conservatory.[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]

The Hunting Ground[edit]

In 2015, The Hunting Ground premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Written and Directed by Dick and produced by Amy Ziering, the film is a documentary about the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses in the United States and the failed response of college administrators. The film was released on February 27, 2015,[14] an edited version aired on CNN on November 22, 2015,[15][16] and was released on DVD the week of December 1, 2015.[17] It was released on Netflix in March 2016.[18] Lady Gaga recorded an original song, "Til It Happens to You," for the film.[19]

One day before the theatrical release of the film, a bipartisan group of twelve U.S. Senators, accompanied by the film's lead subjects, Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, reintroduced the Campus Accountability and Safety Act requiring universities to adopt standard practices for weighing sexual charges, and to survey students on the prevalence of assault.

The Hunting Ground was nominated for a 2016 Emmy Award for "Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking" and for the "Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Picture" award by the Producers Guild of America.[20] In December 2016, the film won the 2016 Stanley Kramer Award given to "a production, producer or other individual whose achievement or contribution illuminates and raises public awareness of important social issues."[21]The Hunting Ground was also one of the five movies nominated in the Documentary category of 2016 MTV Movie Awards.[22]

The Bleeding Edge[edit]

The Bleeding Edge premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival to rave reviews and received further critical acclaim after its worldwide release on Netflix on July 27, 2018.[citation needed] Currently at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes[23] and named The New York Times' Critic's Pick of the Week,[24] the documentary, written and directed by Dick and produced by Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy, is a deep dive exploration on the $400 billion medical device industry[25] where the filmmakers find shockingly lax regulations, corporate cover-ups and profit-driven incentives that put patients at risk daily.[26]

The impact of the film was felt immediately as a week before its release, The Bleeding Edge became a part of a national news story when Bayer removed the birth control device Essure from the U.S. market, one of the many devices heavily criticized and warned about in the doc.[27] Entertainment Weekly promptly added it on their list of documentaries that have changed the world.[28] The documentary was awarded the prestigious George Polk Award for Medical Reporting[29] — one of the only documentaries to receive the journalistic award — and was nominated for a Peabody Award[30] and the Grierson Award for Best Science Documentary.[31]

On the Record[edit]

On October 23, 2017, Dick and Ziering announced an upcoming film on equity, parity, abuse, and representation in Hollywood.[32] They had begun working on this project while screening The Invisible War.[33] In a statement to media, Ziering said:

"Every time we screened that film in Hollywood, actors and executives would come up to us and say that they had had similar experiences right here. So, we began working on this project and immediately found ourselves grappling with the same forces that had kept this story silenced for so long. Everyone was frightened about what would happen to their careers, and worried about whether they would be sued. Distributors were unwilling to fund or release the film, and few people were willing to talk on the record."[34]

Once the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations went public, funding appeared through Impact Partners, which also financed The Hunting Ground and The Invisible War.[35] Ziering noted, "People at long last are speaking out in large numbers, and we feel this industry, and the country, is finally ready for an unflinching film about the reality of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood."[34]

On the Record, Dick and Ziering's film about sexual abuse allegations made against Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons, premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.


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. Owen Gleiberman, for Variety, described Dick as a "a deadly earnest but instinctively dramatic filmmaker."[36] 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."

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.[35]

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.[37] In many cases, Dick has also encouraged his subjects to record their own footage, which is then incorporated into the finished film.

Critics have increasingly remarked on the impact of his films as investigative journalism, 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,"[38] and Entertainment Weekly including three of his films on their list of documentaries that have "changed the world."[28]


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
2015 The Hunting Ground Director, Writer Rape on college campuses
2018 The Bleeding Edge Director, Writer Regulation of the medical device industry
2020 On the Record Director, Writer Sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons

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[39]
Grand Prize Los Angeles Film Festival Documentary Feature Won[39]
1998 OFTA Film Award Online Film & Television Association Best Documentary Picture Nominated[40]
2001 Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival Chain Camera Documentary Nominated[41]
2002 Golden Gate Award San Francisco Film Festival Derrida Documentary Feature Won[39]
Grand Jury Prize Sundance Film Festival Documentary Nominated[42]
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[43]
2006 Austin Film Critics Award Austin Film Critics Association This Film Is Not Yet Rated Best Documentary Won[44][45][46]
Critics Choice Award Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Documentary Feature Nominated[45][46][47]
2007 Golden Trailer Award Golden Trailer Awards Best Documentary Won[48][49][50]
GLAAD Media Award Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Outstanding Documentary Nominated[51][52][53]
2009 Jury Award Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Outrage Best Documentary Won[54]
2010 Emmy Award National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Outstanding Investigative Journalism: Long Form Nominated[55]
Dorian Award Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) Savage Wit of the Year Nominated[56]
2012 Audience Award Sundance Film Festival The Invisible War Best Documentary Won[57][58]
Nestor Almendros Award Human Rights Watch Film Festival Courage in Filmmaking Won[59]
Silver Heart Award Dallas International Film Festival Humanitarian Award Won[60]
Audience Award Seattle International Film Festival Best Documentary Won[61]
Audience Award Provincetown International Film Festival Best Documentary Feature Won[62]
Best of Festival DocuWest International Documentary Film Festival Humanitarian Award Won[63]
Advocacy Award Peace Over Violence Humanitarian Award Won[64]
IDA Award International Documentary Association Best Feature Nominated[65]
Audience Award Gotham Independent Film Awards Audience Award Nominated[66]
EDA Award Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Documentary Feature Film Nominated[67]
2013 Spirit Award Film Independent Best Documentary Won[68]
WGA Award Writers Guild of America Best Documentary Screenplay Nominated[69]
Academy Award Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary Feature Nominated[12]
DGA Award Directors Guild of America Documentary Directing Nominated[70]
Ridenhour Prize The Nation Institute Documentary Film Won[71]
Peabody Award The Peabody Awards Won[72]
Impact Award BRITDOC Foundation Jury Special Commendation Won[73]
2014 Emmy Award National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Best Documentary Feature Won[13]
Outstanding Investigative Journalism – Long Form Won[13]
2015 Best Documentary Stockholm Film Festival The Hunting Ground Documentary Film Nominated[74]
Grand Jury Award Sheffield International Documentary Festival Best Documentary Nominated[75]
Audience Award Traverse City Film Festival Best Documentary Film Runner-up[76]
Check Points Bergen International Film Festival Human Rights Award Won[75]
2016 Cinema Eye Audience Choice Prize Cinema Eye Honors Awards, US Audience Choice Prize Nominated[77]
EDA Award Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Documentary Feature Film Nominated[78]
Emmy Award National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking Nominated[79]
Stanley Kramar Award PGA Awards PGA Award Won[21]
2018 George Polk Award George Polk Awards The Bleeding Edge Medical Reporting Won[29]
2019 Peabody Award The Peabody Awards Documentary Film Nominated[30]
Grierson Award Grierson Awards Best Science Documentary Nominated[80]


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External links[edit]