Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is History


At last week’s San Francisco world premiere of their film The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato revealed that what began as a documentary film exploring homophobia in the military suddenly became a timely chronicle of modern gay rights history.


When filming began two years ago, Bailey and Barbato were most concerned with the challenges of finding gay and lesbian military personnel who were willing to risk their careers to tell their stories on film.


Finding lawmakers on both sides of the debate to repeal the U.S. military’s anti-gay Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was no easy task either. But as the film’s shooting schedule and budget were winding down, the DADT repeal debate was heating up.


“There was a period where it looked like it was going to get repealed, then the Senate pushed back twice, then the [November 2010] midterms happened, and it was like, it’s never gonna happen,” Bailey says. “We just tried following it and keeping up with it, though there wasn’t much logic in how it unfolded.”


What Bailey and Barbato ended up with is a historical chronicle, a nail-biting suspense story with a very happy ending, and the ideal premiere date. The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will air at midnight tonight, and again at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20 – the day that the DADT repeal goes into effect.


For more on the film go here.

View the film’s trailer here.


About The Author

Adam Sandel is a playwright, screenwriter, lyricist, journalist and film critic living in San Francisco, California. He's the film writer for dot429 Magazine and is the host of the internet radio show "Happy Hour" on

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