NO DRESS CODE REQUIRED (Etiqueta no rigurosa)
Outsider Pictures/Strand Releasing
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
Director: Cristina Herrera Borquez
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/16/17
Opens: November 3, 2017
There is every reason to applaud the wisdom of New York City’s Human Rights Watch Festival to accept “No Dress Code Required” for exhibition since, after all, that two people in love have the right to get married is accepted all over the world. But there is an exception. In some of the more benighted countries, the public may consider it bizarre for a couple of the same sex to join together in matrimony, and even further, some states consider even being homosexual is deserving of a death sentence. The good people of Western Europe and the United States now proclaim the right of same sex couples to join together and enjoy legal benefits, and surprisingly, a strongly Catholic country like Mexico now permits such unions, thanks to their supreme court’s decision. But the population of Mexico, like that of the U.S., is divided, and even though marriages are performed in progressive Mexico City, some smaller states have resisted the law of that land.
Enter Victor and Fernando, beauticians living in Mexicali, Baja California. The homophobic governor of Baja and the mayor of Mexicali cite religious reason for refusing to grant same sex marriages, not unlike the case of Kim Davis in Kentucky, whose job it is to issue marriage licenses to all couples but was sent to jail by a federal judge for refusing to do her job. The authorities in Mexicali are hell-bent on disobeying the decision of the court, putting the persistent Fernando and Victor into a bureaucratic maze that delayed their nuptials for years. They claimed that the couple had dementia. There were discrepancies in the certificate that attested they attended a premarital class, which taught such bits of information as that God will join you in your marriage bed.
They dreamed up technicalities that would win awards for creativity. One administrator claimed that the signatures on a paper certifying their eligibility to be married had discrepancies. There was a problem with their birth certificates, which had been issued to them under a different Mexican government. They denied them a reservation date with the civil authorities, and when the couple did finally confirm a November date, the reservation was canceled. But the two had friends, best of all being their lawyer who, if he had charged them normal rates, put it enough billable hours to allow him to retire.
Happily for the movie audience, Fernando and Victor are not ciphers or people as dull as our Rex Tillerson. They are downright charismatic, displaying their affection publicly and determined to go through all the red tape rather than be married immediately in Mexico City because they wanted others in the same boat to profit from their litigation.
As photographed by Cristina Herrera Borquez, the director, and by Cristina Flores Valanzuela, Mexicali looks like just a small Mexican town projecting the small-town hatreds of its officials. To coin a cliché, you certainly don’t have to be gay to side strongly with the loving couple: you need only to be free of reactionary thinking. This is 2017: there is no need for Baja California to have the mindset of some Middle Eastern dictatorships. You will root for the union of these two principled people and their large array of friends and supporters.
This is an engrossing documentary, using some animation but none is really needed. You will feel like a grandstander at the Super Bowl cheering your team, the team of all people of integrity: that of Fernando and Victor.
Unrated. 94 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?