Thursday, February 11, 2010

8:The Mormon Proposition scores wide release deal

Posted By on February 11, 2010, 9:55 AM

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A lot more people are going to get a close look at Mormon power politics as 8:The Mormon Proposition has been picked up by a distribution company for release in theaters and video-on-demand.

According to an e-mail from director Reed Cowan, "8:The Mormon Proposition has been sold in a killer deal to the acquisition giant who landed [Academy Award-winning] Slumdog Millionaire."

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The film is primarily about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' direct involvement in pushing anti-gay marriage policies in multiple states, culminating in California's Proposition 8, which was approved by California voters in the same 2008 election in which they chose Barack Obama as president.

8 debuted at Sundance last month, and featured more Utahns than perhaps any other film at the festival.

The film features Utahn and Mormon author, poet and playwright Carol Lynn Pearson(Facing East, Goodbye I Love You). KRCL's Troy Williams, a radio producer and playright (The Passion of Sister Dottie S. Dixon), also appears in the film. Utah County gay-rights stalwart Bruce Bastian is Cowan's other executive producer. Utah documentarian Steven Greentstreet (This Divided State, Killer at Large), is also a co-director (to read City Weekly's interview with Greenstreet about 8, click here). Former Utahns Spencer Jones and Tyler Barrick are central to the film. Activist Jacob Whipple and his landmark Temple Square protest are also featured.

Academy Award winner Dustin Lance Black, himself a former Mormon and gay man, voices the narration of the film. He won an Oscar in 2009 for the screenplay to Milk.

indieWIRE has all kinds of entertain-biz gobbledeegook regarding the acquisition of 8, if you're into that.

It's not clear that any Mormon officials have seen the film--it was sold out at each of its showings at Sundance--but statements from the LDS Newsroom have claimed said the materials available on the film's Web site seem inaccurate. Basically, the church admits to being involved in the proposition push, but, I guess, they don't like the accusation that they were central to the initiative.

I was lucky enough to catch one of the screenings at Sundance. The main criticism I've heard from others who've seen it is that it rehashes news headlines too much and what new ground it breaks is too minimal. I can see why some would say that, but I disagree, mostly. The leaked Mormon documents reviewed in the film are slightly less salacious, I think, than some people had expected before seeing it. Nevertheless, I thought the film's evidence was compelling, solid, and well organized. It also zoomed in quite well on the central issue for the future: how much political involvement is too much political involvement for a church? That is, how much politicking can a church do before it looses the benefits befitting churches, like tax exemption? The film doesn't answer that question, but neither has the Internal Revenue Service who seems to be the ultimate arbiter.

Another real strength of the film is that features so many Mormons and former Mormons.

You can also read the separate interviews I did with co-directors Reed Cowan and Peter Greentstreet, as well as narrator Dustin Lance Black.

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Jesse Fruhwirth

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