Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival: Interview with Directors of The Case Against 8
Last year was a landmark year for LGBT rights. Aside from many states legalizing same-sex marriage, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defined marriage as a union between a man and woman, for the purposes of federal matters, such as income taxes. SCOTUS also decided that Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, thereby allowing LGBT couples the right to marry in that state.
HBO Documentary Films The plaintiffs featured in The Case Against 8.
The Case Against 8 offers a behind-the-scenes look inside the process of the historic case. The film follows the plaintiffs, a gay couple and a lesbian couple, who were at the forefront of the controversy.
Directed by Ryan White, director and producer of Good Ol' Freda (Magnolia Pictures), a film about the Beatles' longtime secretary Freda Kelly; and Ben Cotner, an executive for Paramount Pictures whose worked on such films as An Inconvenient Truth, The Case Against 8 is an honest and unbiased look at one of the most important cases in United States history.
The film will premiere on HBO on Monday, June 23. We spoke with White and Cotner about Florida's stance on LGBT issues, and winning the Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and the Audience Award at SXSW.
Cultist: Give us some more details about The Case Against 8.
Ryan White: The film follows the federal lawsuit against Prop 8, which took away same-sex marriage in the state of California, all the way from its inception in 2009 to the eventual overturning by the US Supreme Court in June 2013. It's a character film following the two lead attorneys, who were known as political adversaries since they last faced off in Bush v. Gore, and the four plaintiffs and their families who find themselves at the center of the storm.
What do you feel is the message of the film?
Ben Cotner: We didn't set out to make a film that said whether same-sex marriage was right or not. It was really approached more as the documentation of a group of people taking action to defend their rights. In that sense, the message is probably that standing up for your rights is a difficult but important thing to do. regardless of what you are fighting for.
Were there any difficult or emotional moments during the shoot?
BC: We were lucky that Ryan was able to film Kris and Sandy's wedding in San Francisco, and I was simultaneously filming Paul and Jeff's wedding in Los Angeles. After spending four years getting to know these great people and seeing their hard work culminate in such a beautiful moment - that day was hard not to put down the camera and join in the celebration.
Documentaries aren't known for their timeliness. What inspired you to take this project on as it was happening?
RW: As gay Californians, we obviously felt the effects of Prop 8 firsthand, and so the issue is meaningful for us. But as story-tellers, we were drawn to the idea of making a film that pulls back the curtain on the often mysterious process of taking a case to the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs are the heart of the film, so we thought it would be fascinating to follow the process, what it's like for two regular couples to suddenly find themselves as the spokespeople for an incredibly controversial issue.