‘The Queen of Ireland’ is an upcoming, politically charged documentary about Rory O’Neill and his alter-ego, Miss Panti Bliss. From nightlife entertainer to successful entrepreneur to accidental activist, this film sets out to show you the man behind the make-up. We chat the film’s director Conor Horgan.
How did the idea to document Panti/Rory for a film come about?
It was something that came out of an existing relationship that I’ve had with Rory. I’ve known him as a photographer for many years. I’ve done the posters for the Alternative Miss Ireland competition for about 18 years with him. And then, a couple of years ago we started making this documentary.
Blinder Films have been on board as producers from the start. Katie Holly (who runs Blinder Films) and I had been looking for other projects to work on together since finishing One Hundred Mornings so the initial idea was born from that. Katie’s colleague Ailish Bracken managed the shooting from the start and is also a producer on the project. It’s been the three of us with a rotating crew of great people on camera, sound, production and research since 2010.
You have been in production with the film since long before ‘Pantigate’. How have those events changed the initial vision for the film?
Even when we started filming back in 2010, we were very focused on Panti’s brand of activism and how it mobilised so many people, gay and straight, to care about the civil partnership debate which was happening at the time. I think it has been not just the events that lead to “Pantigate” but also the immense reaction to that and to the Noble Call that has shifted the documentary up a gear. I think it shows just how ready everyone is to progress and move forward and do away with the archaic ideology of the last 50 – 100 years. And how angry everyone is!
I think that even Rory himself was very surprised, particularly with the reaction to the Noble Call. We interviewed him a couple of days after and he couldn’t understand who watches a ten-minute speech on YouTube. He said, “People watch 30 second clips on YouTube and that’s it! He was just bewildered by the response, but obviously thrilled as well. And we now have a very different and incredibly exciting framework through which to tell the story.
What do you want viewers to take away from the film?
Rory’s message is what we want to resonate in people. The tagline is “The story of how one man in a dress is changing the world”. So it’s really about that. A man in a dress can change the world. There’s something very inspiring about what has happened, and about what is still happening. And as somebody who never set out to do this, Panti is really motivated by a set of very firmly held, and very sincere personal beliefs. It shows that somebody who has beliefs like that can really affect people in such a profound way and I think that’s a wonderful message, and a wonderful story for a film as well.
Is this film aimed at only the LGBT community?
For us, Panti’s message is so universal and that is what makes this documentary so important. Anyone who feels or has ever felt oppressed regardless of sex, age, gender, race or sexuality can relate to this particular fight for LGBT equality in Ireland and internationally and this is the simple message of the film – to stand up, to be heard, to fight for what you feel you deserve and are entitled to. And when attempts are made to bully or silence you, to fight against that.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to be able to document what we have so far and we want to keep going and start conversations about equality in all shapes and forms worldwide.
What is the plan for the film once completed?
We’re hoping to finish shortly after the referendum, so next year in 2015. Our plan is for festival play worldwide and a theatrical release once it is finished.
However at the moment we’re offering digital downloads to our contributors at a certain perk level on the Indiegogo fundraising page, so anyone who is worried about missing out on screenings can pop on over to the page and find out more on how to view it online.
Why should people donate?
This entertaining, impactful and downright fabulous project will be made through sheer dedication and commitment to having full equal rights in Ireland and abroad.
People should get on board and contribute in what ever way you can – choose a perk that catches your eye, share our campaign with friends and family who would be interested in the cause, send emails about it, anything like that. Every gesture really helps going towards making this the best film we can.
We’re looking for €50,000 from the campaign. But that of course is only a fraction of what the film is going to cost. One of the great things about crowdfunding, aside from the funds, is that our audience are already identifying themselves, joining us online, going to the trouble of giving us a few quid, and that counts for a huge amount. Donating what you can is fantastic way of getting on board a film like this, and joining the journey as we approach the referendum next year.
The team at Bl!nder Films have set a goal of €50,000 to make this film, and are relying on donations from the public. This will allow them to continue filming with Rory / Panti over the next few months, as well as allowing them to edit, research, get rights to use archive, music, and everything else needed to make the film.
If you are on a position to donate, visit their IndieGoGo page.
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