The Law of Love: a “tragicomic documentary road movie” about legalising Czech same-sex marriages

'Zákon lásky'

The Czech Republic was the first post-communist country in the European Union to adopt a “registered partnership” law, and “marriage for all” is supported by most Czechs. A new documentary called The Law of Love shows that the country is not as open-minded and LGBTQ+ friendly when it comes to legalising same-sex marriages.

Under current Czech law, gays and lesbians cannot marry. The Law of Love tracks activists from the initiative We Are Fair (Jsme fér), which helped introduce same-sex marriage legislation back in 2006, in their campaign to achieve marriage equality, and the at times ferocious and farcical debates on this issue in Parliament.

I spoke to producer Pavla Klimešová ahead of the film’s premiere and began by asking her how the idea for the film came about and whether the concept evolved during shooting – was the idea of a “tragicomic documentary road movie”, as it is billed, there from the start?

“I was working with the director Barbora Chalupová on our previous film, Caught in the Net (about child abuse and sexual predators online) and at that time she me on the street a volunteer from the initiative We Are Fair, who asked her if she would like to sign a petition for marriage for all.

“She thought that being able to register as partners meant having the same rights as in a marriage. When she learned that there were actually nearly 100 differences, she was very interested in following up on what was happening in this social debate.

“So, she approached me, and we decided we’d like to shoot the process of the law being – or not being – passed in the lower house of Parliament. We were thinking it would either be yes or no, but why we call it a ‘tragicomedy’ is because it’s not either way. Our representatives didn’t even vote on it until the very last moment, so the concept changed a little bit.”

Zákon lásky (2021) oficiální HD trailer (od tvůrců V síti)

To put this in perspective for our listeners, the Czech Republic was the first post-communist country in the EU to adopt a “registered partnership” law, and equal marriage for all is supported by most Czechs. So did you get a better sense from working on the film why are politicians not getting behind the idea more? And does The Law of Love track the development?

“Statistics show that more than two-thirds of Czechs support marriage for all, so we were surprised as well that it is not reflected in the politics. I think the fact is that we vote for representatives that are a bit more conservative than the population in the Czech Republic.

“There are quite a lot of populist politicians trying to get voters and the LGBTQ+ community is one of the key topics in upcoming elections [in October 2021], so a lot of politicians say quite harsh things because they know they will get headlines and attract voters.

“For example, Tomio Okamura, the leader of SPD [Freedom and Direct Democracy] party, an extreme right party, said that if he were adopted by two men or two women, he would rather jump out of the window.

“Personally, I don’t think he actually believes that, but he knows that it is so extreme that when he says it in Parliament, the newspapers will be full of his pictures and he gets to reach the voters that he wants.

Photo: Silk Films

“So I think that’s one of the reasons why they arguments are sometimes super harsh, like saying that being gay means that you are sick, or comparing homosexual people to paedophiles.”

What has been the initial reaction to the film? And, for you personally, what were some of the most surprising or shocking moments during the shooting?

“We had a special premiere two weeks ago for people who through crowdfunding helped us fund the post-production. I was very pleasantly surprised at how well they received the film and especially very touched by one of the supporters came to us after the screening.

“She told us she was from a small village, that her son is gay, and that she was super grateful that we made the film and helping to open the social debate. I was super touched because then she started crying and then hugged the director [Barbora Chalupová].

“This audience is also very important for us – Zákon lásky is not intended only for the LGBTQ+ community but also for their families. We will be having some screenings with debates as well.

“We didn’t want to make a leftist, activist documentary. We wanted to do an observational documentary that follows the situation. So, besides the initiative We Are Fair, we wanted to shoot with this ‘pro-family’ alliance organising these marches and want to pass a law making marriage only for a man and a women.

“We wanted to have them as representatives of the other opinion and wanted to shoot more with them. The leader is super homophonic. She said that if here son were gay, she would want him to be alone forever and not to bring anyone home, that if you are gay, you are not supposed to act on it. We decided not to give her even more attention in the film… That was shocking for us, and that’s why we decided not to do a straight, direct interview with her.”

And does the film follow quite a few same-sex couples looking to get married, and perhaps have already done so in countries where it is legal?

“We are following several couples, for example there is a wedding of two girls, who said that a lot of people are asking them ‘Why are you having this fake wedding?’ Saying that it was not legal but more of a garden party with a wedding theme. But they said that for them and their families it was very important to have this moment. And it’s quite touching to see these two girls who really just want to have a normal life.

“We follow another couple who have a child, and how hard it is for them not to have the same rights [as married couples]. For example, if something were to happen to the mother of the child, the other partner would not be able to stay with her; the child would have to go into foster care or an orphanage. Through these situations, we wanted to show the differences between having a registered partnership and a marriage.”

The Law of Love (Zákon lásky) will screen with English-language subtitles at art house cinemas throughout the Czech Republic, including at Kino Světozor and Kino Aero in Prague