8: The Mormon Proposition -- Film Review

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An impassioned piece of timely agitprop, "8: The Mormon Proposition" details in devastating fashion the efforts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to help pass the 2008 California ballot measure that defined marriage as solely consisting of a union between a man and a woman. If the impact of co-director/writer Reed Cowan's film is undercut by its sometimes sloppy execution, it nonetheless provides a disturbing portrait of the increasing overlap between church and state.

The Mormon-raised Cowan conceived his project as a documentary about gay teen homelessness and suicide in Utah but shifted gears when the massive efforts by the church to defeat gay marriage became apparent. The resulting film is being released theatrically almost two years to the day after the first such marriages were performed in California.

Narrated by "Milk" screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the film provides ample evidence to substantiate its claims, including excerpts from a video in which a leading church figure instructs his followers to fight for the cause and makes an impassioned plea for donations.

The proceedings have a made-to-order villain in the form of Utah state Sen. Chris Buttars, seen describing an African-American baby as "an ugly thing" and refusing to apologize for such remarks as describing sexual relations between two men as "pig sex."

There also are, not surprisingly, moving testimonials from several gays and lesbians distraught over having their hard-won civil rights taken away so abruptly.

But despite its brief running time, the film frequently loses focus, too often relying on cheap emotionalism rather than dispassionate journalism to make its points.

And considering the legal battle under way to declare Proposition 8 unconstitutional, it also suffers from the fact that the ending to the story has yet to be written.

Opened: Friday, June 18 (Red Flag Releasing)
Production: David v. Goliath Films
Directors: Reed Cowan, Steven Greenstreet
Screenwriter/executive producer: Reed Cowan
Producers: Steven Greenstreet, Emily Pearson, Christopher Reece-Volz
Directors of photography: Mark Barr, Reed Cowan, Marian Eckley, Steven Greenstreet, Todd Petersen, Toby Quaranta, Christopher Reece-Volz, Richard Samuels, Derrick Shore
Editors: Brian Bayerl, Steven Greenstreet, John Paul Kinhart
Music: Thomas Chase, Nicholas Greer
No rating, 80 minutes
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