Sundance Film Festival Review: 8: The Mormon Proposition

by Whitney Borup

400x600 mg2006 kissing mormons 725999As far as I’m concerned, 8: The Mormon Proposition has its heart in the right place. But, I’m coming from avery biased position. 8 attacks the church in ways that will be construed as manipulative and underhanded and, therefore, will end up preaching to the choir. Then again, Mormons are up to the same techniques in their political corner, so maybe you have to fight fire with fire.

To start, I need to come right out and say that I was raised Mormon, but haven’t attended church regularly since 2002. It has been a long 7 years, full of drama and tears, and I could relate to the ex-Mormons in the film more than I can express in writing. A lot has changed in the church since I was a member, but these particular issues were raging 7 years ago, too. I’m familiar with the hurt and fury behind the issues of gay rights as they concern the LDS church. I could never write an objective review.

That said, I could still recognize the factually…um….iffy…moments in the film that will decrease its validity to those in the know. As far as I know, for example, Mormons don’t believe God had multiple wives. And it is not established doctrine that there will be polygamy in heaven. That said, it’s not gospel principles that are really the subject of the documentary (though the filmmakers certainly use their interpretations of these principles as forms of manipulation). And the information they give surrounding Proposition 8, as far as I’m aware, is accurate.

With a subject as dividing as this one, presentation is key, and 8: The Mormon Proposition does not seem to concern itself with any attempt at conversion. The first image of the film is a creepy, distorted video of prominent Mormon leaders discussing what they see to be an important moral issue at stake in 2008’s election. The video streamed via the internet through a perfectly clear webcam, so the distortion is on the part of Cowan and Greenstreet, who use such a removed, foreign image to automatically position viewers politically. 8 continues to utilize sound distortions and eerie music to manipulate viewers into thinking that the LDS church is more than just an extremely conservative group: it’s a criminal organization, akin to the mafia.

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What’s frustrating, is that the film is convincing enough without all the transparent manipulations. The facts stand up on their own! The Mormon church was the leading organization behind the “Yes on Prop 8″ campaigns. They contributed the most amount of money. This led to many LGBT supporters to finally leave the church. Chris Butters is an asshole. Many LGBT kids in Mormon families suffer tremendously. The interviews with the families affected by this issue should be enough without all the conspiracy theories, and would provide a much more compelling/convincing approach to a delicate issue.

8: The Mormon Proposition will be affective on both sides. On my side of the fence the film produces righteous injustice; and on the other side it produces….righteous injustice. While this kind of ranting and raving can be very therapeutic, I doubt that this is the documentary that will promote policy change.

8: The Mormon Proposition
Directed: Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet
USA, 80 min.

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