When the Ship Comes In – ★★★★½
At present in Ireland people of the same sex can not get married. We are told that in the spring of next year there will be a referendum put to the people on whether or not to change our Constitution and allow people of the same sex to marry. Therefore The Case Against 8 may be the most relevant documentary currently being shown in Irish cinemas.
In 2008 as Barack Obama was being announced as the next president of the USA it was also emerging from California that the people had voted yes to “Prop 8” which stated that only marriage between a man and a women was recognised in the state of California. The American Foundation for Equal Rights filed a case to challenge the ruling of Prop 8 on behalf of two same sex couples – Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami. The Case Against 8 is the story of the legal and emotional battle fought by the plaintiffs against this new law.
A big part of the case (apart from the obvious fact that it is one of the most hotly debated topics in America and governments around the world at the moment) was that the plaintiff’s lawyers had battled against each other in one of America’s biggest Supreme Court lawsuits. This happened when there was an issue around the recount of electoral votes in Florida, with Al Gore facing off against George Bush for the 2000 presidency. David Boies represented Gore and Theodore Olson was the lawyer for George Bush. Olson won the case but the lawyers had such a mutual admiration for one another that they were more than willing to work together when it came to fighting Prop 8.
We get a fascinating look into what goes into a case of this size, the people involved, the slowness of responses and the emotional toll it takes on all concerned. The heart of the film is the two same sex couples who must take on their shoulders the weight of injustices against the gay and lesbian community in California and America. Kris Perry is named as the chief plaintiff and it is her name that appears on the documentation as Perry v. Schwarzenegger, as he was the Governor at the time. The scene that gets to the crux of the issue (and the film) is when we have an impassioned recounting from Perry as to how she has been a second class citizen all of her adult life due to her sexual orientation.
This shows the power of film documentaries as a picture or written story will never get across or capture the same level of emotion. The film will no doubt embolden people in favour of same sex marriage but it may even achieve a rare goal in cinema – changing people’s minds. This is all due to the honesty and bravery of Kris Perry, Sandy Stier, Jeff Zarrillo and Paul Katami.
The Case Against 8 is now showing exclusively at Dublin’s Light House Cinema