The Case Against 8 is the 2014 documentary about the legal battle to overturn the controversial California Proposition 8, which made same sex marriage illegal in the entire state. Directed by Ben Cotner and Ryan White, the movie works to create an emotional tie to both the plaintiffs and the high profile lawyers who are hired to work for them. The film tells the events of the hard fought legal battle from 2009 until its resolution in 2013. Normally in this type of documentary there are generally one or two main characters that the directors focus on, but here we get six. Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier, a lesbian couple and Paul Katami and Jeffrey Zarrillo, a gay couple are the plaintiffs in this landmark case. Representing them are two of the countries most high profile legal minds, David Boies and Ted Olson. The documentary can be broken up into two major sections quite easily seemingly to mirror the very issue the documentary purports to show. The heart and mind of the issue at hand. The 2 couples are the heart of the film. They pluck at your heartstrings and bring in the most human of elements. Their involvement makes the viewer relate to a topic that they might not even have a directly vested interest in. Perry and Stier, both mothers of 2 boys each from previous marriages are the perfect example of what LGBT couples with children must endure in this time of judicial uncertainty. They connect with you, the audience, as parents first. This was an important highlight to bring about whether you agree with their desire to be married on not. All documentaries are designed to put forth a particular point of view, and we must judge it based on that fact, not based on personal biases. The second couple, Katami and Zarrillo represent the future and the breaking of stereotypes. Two young gay men who are fighting against the notion of the gay community being anti-monogamy. They too play the role of the heart of the film. Interviews with their parents who just want their sons to be happy is a heartfelt moment of humanity. Zarrillo, especially, stands out with his speeches to the public prior to the case beginning.
Every socio-political topic has heart behind it, but it also needs the mind to get pass the legal hurdles that may arise. David Boies and Ted Olson are the mind behind this entire case. Their history with one another is what makes this story even more compelling. Boies worked as the lead counsel for the Al Gore team during the Bush v. Gore fiasco of 2000. What is even more interesting that across from him as the lead counsel from George W. Bush’s team was Ted Olson. Ultimately, Olson won the case, but the two men became close friends rather than enemies due to mutual respect for the other’s skills and presence in the courtroom. So when the American Foundation for Equal Rights was looking for co-counsel for Boies they decided to get the one man from the right that was not only on Boies' level but felt strongly in overturning Proposition 8 as well.
Now that all six main “cast members” are in place, the documentary begins to really hit its stride, showing courtroom scenes, deposition dialogues, and such that lead up to the actual arguments in front of the Supreme Court. Even though I knew the outcome of the case, there was never a time where it felt for sure. Credit goes to directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White for still being able to garner a level of suspense from past known events. They also were able to shed light on some internal topics that I was unaware of while this case was going on.
One thing that socio-political documentaries sometimes do that is damaging to them is the issue of the other side. How do you make a pro-marriage equality documentary without coming off bashing the other side? Cotner and White handles this well by just showing video of the defendants and quoting actual material they had written. Taking away any arguments of misleading the public on the issue via this movie. Its not perfect, but it comes close to sidestepping the issue in its entirety, which I appreciated. I don’t need a two hour sermon as to why the other side is the worse. Just show us what your side is doing, and the directors did just that.
In conclusion, The Case Against 8, is a well handled documentary about a very sensitive topic. Concluding with emotionally jarring scenes of not only the plaintiffs, but Boies and Olsen as well was a fantastic touch. The movie worked on many levels, but no minds will be ultimately changed due to it. However, at the end of the day was that even the point? Cotner and White clearly wanted you to see the journey by which these six people made history. Nothing more nothing less, and for that level of simplicity the film works exactly the way it was designed.
[easyreview title= "Review of The Case Against 8" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]