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8: The Mormon Proposition
Time Out New York Project: Issue #768, June 17–23, 2010
Dirs. Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet. 2010. R. 80mins. Documentary.
This slapdash look at California’s infamous Proposition 8—the narrowly approved measure that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman—was conceived as a doc about gay-teen homelessness and suicide in Utah. Despite the change in subject, the target stayed the same: The homeless teens were ex-members of the powerful Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which also had a strong hand in Prop 8 fund-raising. There’s little of the Church’s perspective in this doc, but you can’t really fault the filmmakers—Mormon leaders refused several overtures to participate.
The pro-LDS lackeys who do appear—like the piggish, South Park–ishly named state senator Chris Buttars—can’t hold a candle to the expectedly moving queer and queer-positive testimonials. But codirectors Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet lack an organizing principle: Is this a film about those directly affected by Prop 8? An all-around attack on Mormonism? A dispassionate piece of journalism, or a choir-preaching bit of agitprop? The filmmakers fail to settle on one approach, so the disparate parts of this far-too-short feature (it’s barely a Dateline special) cancel one another out. It doesn’t help that the Prop 8 battle is still raging; the jumbled perspectives get swallowed up in the fog of an ongoing war.—Keith Uhlich