Hot Docs 2014 Review: The Case Against 8
There is one truly captivating, shocking underlying aspect of Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s documentary The Case Against 8. The film is mainly a fly-on-the-wall recount of the struggle of two same-sex couples, and their battle in court trying to overturn California Proposition 8, which ruled into law that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”.
What does not shock, however, is the need of Cotner and White to show the protagonists, and in fact, the entire movement for same-sex rights, in a positive light. The couples come off as genuine and honest representatives of the cause of same-sex marriage. They serve as standard-bearers for how the movement against same-sex marriage does not have much going for it, and there are some examples in the film that are played for laughs, and correctly so. A key witness in support of Prop 8, an “expert”, is even featured in the film after being thoroughly defeated in court, and now seemingly wise to how he has more to learn.
The truly shocking element of The Case Against 8 comes early in the movie, when the legal representative for The Case Against 8 is found through a connection to filmmaker Rob Reiner, and his wife. This lawyer is Theodore Olson, most famous for being George W. Bush’s lawyer, and the man that effectively ended the Florida recount. This led Bush to become president of the United States, (and is noted in the movie that Olson’s office looks like a “Republican hall of fame”, and that Republicans, George W. Bush in general, do not exactly have the strongest record when it comes to rights for same-sex. Olson is perhaps the only truly fleshed-out performer in the film, and he says something that sticks with the audience for the majority of the film, which is that “marriage is a Republican value”. What shocks in a movie championing the rights of all is that the institution of marriage is unquestioned as being a fundamental right.