Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

The Queen of Ireland


It was always a sure bet that sooner or later the whole world would be aware of an extraordinary Irish drag queen called Panti Bliss, but it was her appearance on the stage of Dublin’s Abbey Theater delivering a ‘Noble Call’ on February 1st 2014 that instantly propelled her into the role of accidental activist and national LGBT hero.  The very Irish tradition of a ‘Noble Call’ dictates that it usually takes place late at night on a stage after the main festivities are winding down and one performer will get up sing or say their piece to an audience who respectfully listen and never interrupt.  In Panti’s case she was giving an impassioned and brilliant heartfelt speech about homophobia, and the audience were in total raptures so the only noise was the standing ovation that she so well-deserved at its conclusion.

The very next day the video of speech immediately went viral resulting in global outpourings of support from people such as Stephen Fry who tweeted that is was probably the best Irish speech since Oscar Wilde.

Documentarian Conor Horgan‘s profile of Rory O’Neill aka Panti starts at this point, but first he takes a look at his childhood growing up as the son of the local veterinarian in a typical small Irish country town.  He was as he kept insisting “painfully middle-class“.  Being sent off to Boarding School started to be the making of him, but it was his spell at Art School that opened his eyes to life’s possibilities before he discovered his true vocation ……drag.

After globe-trotting for a few years he landed back in Dublin to open his own gay/drag bar which made him a local celebrity of sorts and got him invited on to local TV’s late night chat shows. It was there that he called out anti-gay people as homophobic resulting in a rather nasty public outcry and  media storm….. from all the homophobes including the Catholic Church (!)  Hence the Noble Call.

Now very much in the public eye Panti aka Rory seem energized by the vitriolic ant-gay sentiment and became one of the national leaders of the movement behind the referendum on same-sex marriage. Which when it made world history by being the first country ever to achieve this by a popular vote, Hogan rightly profiles Panti as the main architect of this phenomenal success.

Rory-ONeillFilmed over several years, the interviews captured with O’Neill out of drag show a more modest introspective person who is unscrupulously  open and honest, especially when he touches on highly personal issues such as being diagnosed with HIV and the devastating effect that it has had on his ability to have an intimate relationship. His humor is infectious, but what draws us most to this disarmingly charming man is his unshakeable sense of humanity and his tireless commitment to helping the LGBT community.

Now after being giving a  People of The Year Award, anddownload (2) honored with an Honorary Doctorate from Trinity College for his contribution to LGBT rights and marriage equality, it’s time for Panti to return to her home town of Balinrobe.  She is welcomed with open arms by the very same townsfolk that young Rory couldn’t wait to leave.  Escorted by her very proud parents to the big marquee that has been erected in the main square for the occasion, the entire town has crammed in to see Panti perform an unadulterated version of her rather raunch show. She is treated like a conquering hero, and as the Queen of Ireland which she truly is.

This is such a joyous movie that so deserves to be seen by the rest of the world who will love to discover Dr Panti Bliss.

Posted by queerguru  at  12:59

Genres:  documentary, international

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