THE CASE AGAINST 8
2014, 112 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
The Case Against 8 is a truly moving documentary. While everyone knows what happens at the end of the film (unless you live under a rock), Case is a riveting viewing experience because it places a human face on one of the most well-publicized court cases of the past century. Ben Cotner and Ryan White's film tells the story of the fight to overturn Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California after it had been legalized. The film was shot over the period of five years.
When we read about cases like this one, ones that go to the Supreme Court and end up making history, we hear a bunch of facts and then the outcome, never the process of how this case got up to the highest court in the country. To get a case like this to the Supreme Court, it takes years and it costs many people years of having a regular life.
In addition to the legal details explained in The Case Against 8, the film focuses on the two couples and lawyers fighting to overturn Proposition 8. The couples fighting Proposition 8 were one lesbian couple who have kids and one gay couple. Undertaking something of this magnitude is daunting and time-consuming. These four people gave up five years of their lives to fight for their basic human right to marry, yet it didn't come without its costs, both emotional and psychological. The couples were frequently traveling, but luckily they were supported by their families.
Cotner and White show us why overturning Proposition 8 mattered. The couples fighting it are just like any other in this country and they represent millions of other same-sex couples. When the inevitable happens and Proposition 8 is overturned, it is a tearily triumphant moment on par with the most powerful in cinema history. After watching these people devote their lives to a worthy cause that will affect millions and then win, it is impossible not to be emotional. Many other documentarians would've approached this material like a traditional news story, but that wouldn't have worked because we wouldn't care about the outcome on a human level.
Overall, The Case Against 8 is a thorough, informative, riveting, and personal look at one of the defining moments in the Gay Rights Movement. As both a historical document and a piece of documentary filmmaking, Case succeeds. This is a film that many will be able to connect to. While many won't share in the struggles of the couples who fought Proposition 8, they'll connect to them emotionally. I connected with this film and came out moved.
The Case Against 8 is now showing on HBO.