With the date of the long overdue referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment finally being announced, The 34th serves as a timely reminder of the struggle that led to a successful vote on Marriage Equality in Ireland three years ago.
As a documentary, The 34th is a chore to watch, comprising of the standard talking head interviews with various key players, peppered with archive footage. Despite being less than 90 minutes long, the overall lack of stylistic flair makes it difficult to pay attention. This is exacerbated by the cheap and confusing onscreen text that fails to contextualise the interviews. As a result, the film also fails at being an accessible watch for an unfamiliar audience, which was clearly its goal.
More troubling are the assimilationist politics at the heart of The 34th. The subjects of the documentary frequently mention how normal they are. This is the root of the aesthetic blandness which serves to appeal to a straight audience. As a cause, gay marriage tends to prioritise the rights of older, middle-class gays and lesbians to the exclusion of less privileged queer people. Historically, the push for marriage equality has side-lined the problem of homelessness among LGBT youth, which also intersects with issues regarding healthcare and sex work. The 34th does a massive disservice to those for whom marriage equality means little, characterising them as queers who just want to be different. There is also a queasy moment where one of the white subjects likens her struggle to that of Rosa Parks.
As a historical document, The 34th is just about enough. However, for those who long for queer liberation, the assimilationist politics at play will only serve to bore and frustrate.
DIRECTORS: Linda Cullen, Vanessa Gildea
SYNOPSIS: An inspiring love story and political battle that brought marriage equality to Ireland.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]