The Queen Of Ireland
WHEN history is in motion, you’ve got to make sure the camera is ready to roll. In the case of Conor Horgan and The Queen of Ireland, it happened the other way around, with subject, narrative and eternity somehow aligning during the process with a spookily predestined smoothness.
What started out in 2010 as an ordinary documentary about Irish drag queen Rory O’Neill and his “giant cartoon woman” alter-ego known as Panti Bliss slowly morphed into a film record of a changing Ireland, a pocket history of the gay community here and an outsider coming full circle.
That circle starts and finishes in O’Neill’s hometown of Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. We hear about a difficult but loving childhood, an exhale of expression in Dublin’s underground gay scene, and stiletto-heeled babysteps and journeyman ventures on overseas stages. The practicalities of living with HIV get a poignant airing.
But Horgan could not have accounted for the noisy fallout from that Brendan O’Connor interview on The Saturday Night Show (the “Pantigate” saga is not lingered on in great detail, for obvious reasons). Nor could they have envisaged the swooning reaction to O’Neill’s “Noble Call” at the Abbey Theatre. Both made Panti a household name here, an LGBT hero abroad, and forced Ireland to take a long look at itself just as the winds of marriage equality began to blow. May 22 arrived and O’Neill’s story had a crescendo that couldn’t be more ideal.
Horgan was indeed in the right place at the right time, but his execution – measured, efficient, filled with emotional intelligence – is pivotal in capturing the events. Expect this remarkable film to have legs, and deservedly so.
First published in the Sunday Independent