No Dress Code Required


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

No Dress Code Required
"If you have ever had to struggle, for any reason, with the petty ministrations of local officials who seem determined to block your progress, you will relate to this film."

When did same sex marriage become legal in Scotland? You might think it was 2014, but the question is tricksier than it sounds, because in fact same sex couples could marry in Scotland throughout most of its history - it's just that, until one official panicked at the suggestion and hastily had the law amended, nobody in power had noticed them doing it.

The same is true of many parts of the world: legislation often didn't bother to specify that marriage should be between a man and a woman because society was so firmly structured around that idea that the idea of same sex couples marrying simply didn't occur. It might not have occurred to Victor Fernando Urias Amparo (known as Fernando) and Victor Manuel Aguirre Espinoza in Mexicali had they not been aware that people were doing it elsewhere in the world. Suddenly excited by the idea, they wrote to an actor who was rumoured to have married his boyfriend. He wrote back, saying that he didn't see why they couldn't do it as national laws didn't actually forbid it and equality law should override any regional objections. Then he put them in touch with his lawyer.

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No Dress Code Required (the Spanish title, Etiqueta No Rigurosa, further implies the dropping of ceremony or lack of need for a pass) is the latest of several documentaries looking at campaigns for marriage rights. Where most focus on legal and political actions, this one, more than anything else, focuses on bureaucracy. If you have ever had to struggle, for any reason, with the petty ministrations of local officials who seem determined to block your progress, you will relate to this film.

Rather than present us with the usual impassioned political speeches, what this situation does is to expose the extent of low level prejudice that will shock many viewers but that LGBT viewers will recognise all too well. A parade of obscure and archaic legal clauses are brought out in a series of attempts to halt or delay the wedding. The two men, who see themselves as very ordinary, are subjected to endless humiliations as every aspect of their personal lives is scrutinised. Though not showy or loud, they are both emotionally open people, and their pain at being forced to confront this evidence of petty hatred is obvious; it cuts deeper than all the noise of the religious protestors, whose views the men maintain that they respect but just don't wish to see constraining the lives of people who don't share them.

Ironically, Fernando and Victor work as beauticians. They have spent their careers preparing other people for weddings, only to be left wondering why they are denied their own. We see them at work, see them talking with colleagues and friends. To the wider group, this is also seen as a struggle of the little people against the system, a warning to government that some people, finding strength in community, will not be deterred from fighting for their rights. The question hinted at but never posed directly is: is this the real reason their campaign is seen as dangerous?

An intelligent, well constructed documentary that gets unusually close to its subjects, No Dress Code Required sets aside the usual drama and looks at all the small things that make love, community and social opportunity matter.

Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2017
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Víctor and Fernando, a devoted, unassuming couple from Mexicali, Mexico, find themselves in the centre of a legal firestorm over their desire to get married.

Director: Cristina Herrera Borquez

Writer: Cristina Herrera Borquez

Year: 2017

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: Mexico


Human Rights 2017

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