Dir: Conor Horgan.
With: Panti Bliss. 82 mins. No cert.
Where the recent Dressed As A Girl tailed a variety of
drag artists, Conor Horgan’s documentary pursues just one – stand-up/activist
Rory O’Neill, a.k.a. Panti Bliss – in order to describe a wider, often
haphazard push for acceptance: as late as January 2014, O’Neill’s prime-time
chatshow appearance sparked a major public row that engendered Panti’s most
outspoken incarnation yet. Although Horgan catches a few rueful-reflective
backstage moments, what makes O’Neill such an effective figurehead is his
cheery, show-must-go-on equanimity: on living with HIV, he’s heard shrugging “I
made my AIDS-y bed, now I must lie in it.” It takes time to get beyond the
make-up – and for the salty putdowns to reformulate into impassioned speeches –
but once there, Horgan’s film shapes up as a most pleasing portrait: watching
Panti perform an inclusively ribald hometown gig after May’s affirmative gay
marriage vote, we witness a once small, grey part of Ireland being dragged
forward into what looks a kinder, funnier, more colourful future. The Queen of Ireland opens in selected cinemas from today.