Based on the ground-breaking book by MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Allan Bérubé, Coming Out Under Fire features nine gay and lesbian veterans who recount how they joined the patriotic war against fascism in the 1940s only to find themselves fighting two battles: one for their country and another for their right to serve. They first remember warm and entertaining stories of finding each other in a compulsory heterosexual environment and reminisce over tales of first love and deep friendships. Their good times were short-lived, however, as they became targets of newly created anti-homosexual policies which called for witch hunts, dehumanizing interrogations, involuntary psychiatric treatments, and the incarceration of suspected homosexuals in “queer stockades.” The final humiliation was a dishonorable discharge which stripped a soldier of all veterans benefits as well as being officially branded a “sex pervert” for life.
Coming Out Under Fire integrates compelling on-camera interviews with declassified military documents and archival footage on sex education, mental health, prison compounds, and court martial hearings. It probes the origins of the military’s anti-homosexual policy to document how pseudo-psychiatry, erroneous medical theory, and misplaced ethics masked a policy based on prejudice.
This classic film won a Special Jury award at Sundance, and has been screened in festivals worldwide and broadcast in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.
Among Dong’s over 100 film excellence awards are an Oscar® nomination, the George Foster Peabody Award, three Sundance Film Festival awards, the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Award, Taiwan’s Golden Horse Award, two consecutive GLAAD Media Awards and five Emmy nominations. His numerous honors for public service include the OUT 100 Award from OUT magazine, which was presented to Dong “for waging a one-man anti-violence project with his documentary on convicted murderers of homosexuals, Licensed to Kill.”
Dong’s feature-length documentaries have been theatrically distributed throughout America and his films have and continue to be featured in hundreds of festivals worldwide. In addition to domestic broadcasts on PBS, the Sundance Channel, and Comcast, his films have been televised in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at the Human Rights International Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland, the Walker Art Center, the Hawaii International Film Festival, and Outfest. Funding for Dong’s work has been received from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the Soros Documentary Fund, the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program and Fund/John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Initiative, the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the Center for Asian American Media, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Documentary, the Hugh Hefner Foundation, Cal Humanities, the American Film Institute, the Unitarian Universalist Association, among many others. Dong has also been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Film and two Rockefeller Media Arts Fellowships.