Interview: Scannain talks to The Queen of Ireland director Conor Horgan

It is fair to say that the Pantigate story has been one of the biggest stories to emerge in Ireland in 2014. Rory O’Neill appeared on the Saturday show hosted by Brendan O’Connor and held the position that certain people who opposed marriage equality were homophobic. Those very same people took legal action and RTE (some say very meekly) paid out very quickly. The resulting fall out had the country riveted. Filmmaker Conor Horgan was there to record it all for a documentary he was making on Panti. Like Kim Bartley’s documentary This Revolution will Not be Televised the film had evolved into something else entirely by events beyond his control. He had been filming for 4 years on The Queen of Ireland and I began by asking him if this storm erupting was manna from documentary heaven.

“It really was,” he laughs. “Rory is a great person and a great interviewee and Panti of course is fantastic but we had sometimes wondered how the story would come together to take in areas such as marriage equality and then it hit”. But did you expect it to go worldwide? “Not really,” he continues. “When we filmed Panti in the Abbey Theatre in what became her noble call little did we know that it would become so big. The video has been shared so much around the world at this point. But outside of Ireland the story of the criminalisation of homosexuality is considered historical, as if it took place long ago. I was talking to some people from America recently and I told them that homosexuality was only decriminalised in Ireland in 1993. They were actually shocked. That is an important part of the story. The fight for full equality is still going on today”.

Recently at the GAZE film festival the Indiegogo campaign was launched and 10 minutes of footage was shown. How does Horgan feel about the rise in popularity of Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Fund It etc?

“They are fantastic,” he says. “I just funded something this morning before I came here actually. It is a great idea to help fund projects you believe in”. Why did you guys (Blinder films are producing) go the Indiegogo route? “Necessity” he says. “We felt that it would help us get more investors if we could show how many people have invested in the project already. We have already got over 300 people who have invested so far and I think this shows that people are very interested in the project”.

How did the footage go over at the festival? “Well Panti is a great character and what we showed was essentially a greatest hits compilation of what we had. Basically it was an extended trailer. There are moments in a film that you hope work but you are never really sure until you show it to an audience. At particular moments during the screened footage you could hear a pin drop in the cinema and that was very satisfying”.

There is little doubt that this story will continue to be in the public eye for some time to come. It seems like the natural end point for the story would be the marriage equality referendum next year. Does Horgan agree with this?

“Yes. I think that would be the perfect place to end the documentary”. I mention the recent Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) ruling about balance and Horgan gives a wry smile. “Well between now and the vote there will be a lot of dark moments to come and the BAI ruling on balance is one of those moments. But it would be a perfect end point if the referendum passes next year”.

Indeed. With polls saying that more than 70% of people in Ireland are in favour of marriage equality we can but hope we are talking about when rather than if.

With an end in sight to The Queen of Ireland thoughts turn to other projects. After all it is 2009 since the release of his previous (and so far only) feature One Hundred Mornings. A low key and impressive post-apocalyptic drama set in Ireland which had some wonderfully tense scenes amidst the eerie quiet. I was a big fan of the film and reviewed it subsequently. I mention to Horgan that what particularly impressed me about it was the idea that if the world as we know it ended it would most likely be with a whimper and not a bang. “Thank you very much,” he says. It is interesting that One Hundred Mornings shares a similar reluctance to new release The Rover. That is
to not make explicit reasons for the societal breakdown. It is a film well worth seeking out.

So the obvious next question is if there were plans to make another feature after The Queen of Ireland is finished? “There are definite plans to do another feature soon. I am writing with someone at the moment and I will be looking to make something happen in the not too distant future”. Any hints? “Well after the bringing about the apocalypse in One Hundred Mornings the most natural thing to do is go to the other end of the spectrum so it may well be a comedy!”

Here is the link to the Indiegogo campaign for The Queen of Ireland. Contribute if you can.