It might be hard to imagine being compelled to watch a movie for more than an hour of a guy in a black shirt re-enacting characters, but the subject matter and actor/writer Marc Wolf are both magnetic in his film "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

With the demise of the Pentagon's 17-year policy on gays serving in the military, Wolf's work, translated onto screen from his award-winning play, captures the darkness of the period as he channels some of the 200 people he interviewed over the years on the subject, both pro and con.

But more than anything it is a story about secrets and the impact they can have on people, and maybe that will be the long-lasting historical mark of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

The Guthrie Theater is offering two free screenings of Wolf's film at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie on Saturday. Tickets are available through the theater's box office at 612-377-2224 or 1-877-447-8243.

With evocative images from director of photography Mott Hupfel, Wolf makes us believe in characters like Ed Clayton, a gay former corporal in the Marines who is tossed out of the back of Camp Pendleton, 14 miles from the nearest pay phone; or Hannah and Anna Mae, two lesbian veterans who describe their days in the military; or the mother of Navy Seaman Allen Schindler, who was beaten to death aboard ship before his discharge for being gay. As Schindler's mother, Wolf describes feeling compelled to open the casket of her murdered son, the beating so severe he was recognizable only by the tattoos on his arms.

For now, it's likely too soon and too raw for some to view the issue with any neutrality. It has only been a month since the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military was lifted. Since then, we've had a gay soldier booed at a Republican presidential debate and we've had a U.S. service member, purportedly serving in Germany, posting a video of himself on YouTube calling his father in Alabama to tell him for the first time that he is gay.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434