A well-rounded and incredibly human documentary which tells the tale of how a man dressed as a “giant cartoon woman” would become an unlikely leading activist.
The Queen of Ireland tracks the life and times of the larger-than-life Rory O’Neill and how his glamorous drag queen alter ego, Panti Bliss, became an “accidental activist” and the face of the fight for same sex marriage equality in Ireland.
The legalisation of same sex marriage by way of a public vote is of course the climax of this film, but it is all the surrounding, seemingly innocuous details that give this documentary its weight.
From O’Neill recounting the otherness he felt in his small, conservative hometown; to navigating underground gay nightlife; to creating Panti Bliss and finding freedom on the dance floors of Dublin, London and Tokyo… These stories are interlaced with the history of homophobia entrenched in a society where homosexuality was not decriminalised until 1993.
We see how Panti Bliss was born out of defiance to discrimination, how O’Neill is affected by intolerance in his everyday life, and how with the help of Panti he stood to change history rather than merely be affected by its repercussions.
Interspersed with intimate interviews, including with his incredibly accepting parents, and capped off with a redemptive hometown show with all the hallmarks of a Hollywood ending.
The Queen of Ireland starts at a slow pace but is ultimately moving – and perhaps a persuasive case study for anyone still opposed to allowing same-sex marriage in Australia… (AM)