The Case Against 8

"Extraordinary"

The Case Against 8 Review


This may be a relatively straightforward documentary about a lengthy legal case, but it carries such a powerful emotional kick that it forces the audience to see the bigger picture. For that reason, this is essential viewing: both as an exploration of how the American legal system works and as a personal story of people standing up for compassion and equality.

The ball starts rolling on the day Barack Obama was first elected US President in 2008, the same day California voted in favour of Proposition 8, banning same-sex marriage. Over the next five years, an unlikely legal team came together made up of Ted Olson and David Boies, well-known respectively as the Republican and Democrat who went head-to-head on another extremely high-profile case: the contested Bush v Gore election in 2000. Working with two couples (Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo) who are willing to stand as claimants, they escalate the case up through a series of appeals, arguments, hearings and courtroom battles, all the way to the Supreme Court, which repealed Prop 8 in June 2013.

Filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White lay the events out chronologically, using interviews with the people involved, plus access to all kinds of media material and backstage drama. But instead of going for a flashy editing style, they let the people tell their own stories, which adds a compelling emotional angle. It's impossible not to see these couples' bravery in the face of outrageous abuse, and there's a terrific sense of momentum as the case moves forward, with moments that are gripping, moving and even thrilling, even though we know where it's heading. Along the way, the film brings out fresh angles on an issue we think we know forward and backward, pointing out why using words like "traditional" to describe marriage is essentially meaningless. As historical scholar Nancy Cott argued in court, "Marriage has never been universally defined as a union of one man and one woman, and ... religion has never had any bearing on the legality of a marriage."

There's also the whole argument that gay marriage will harm society, even though the lawyer stating that point can't explain a single way it might. But it's the people who make this film essential viewing, especially the dynamic duo of Olson and Boies. Olson is an especially fascinating figure, facing backlash from his right-wing colleagues as well as gay-rights groups who don't trust him. But he lucidly argues that same-sex marriage should be a conservative value as it's a personal liberty issue, and that the US Constitution is designed to protect people from mob rule. In other words, the film not only recounts a momentous legal case, but it lays out the core themes in a way that hits us in the gut.



The Case Against 8

Facts and Figures

Genre: Documentaries

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 18th January 2014

Distributed by: HBO Documentary Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ben Cotner, Ryan White

Producer: Ben Cotner, Ryan White

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