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Film review: '8: The Mormon Proposition' is one-sided and inept

Published: Thursday, June 17 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION — ★1/2 — Documentary feature about the California Marriage Protection Act; rated R (profanity, slurs, violence, vulgarity, brief drugs, torture); Tower Theatre

OK, Michael Moore may no longer be the least subtle documentary filmmaker currently working today.

The heavy-handed, supposed nonfiction feature "8: The Mormon Proposition" makes Moore and his movie and television works look "subtle" by comparison.

In fact, it even makes them look less like the filmed propaganda they are.

But the biggest problem with the film is not just that it's so one-sided, it's that "8" is so inept and ineffective in terms of storytelling.

It's as if the filmmakers went into the project without a specific direction, aside from making an obvious statement. The resulting movie feels rambling and unfocused.

Co-directors Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet, aided by narrator Dustin Lance Black, allegedly investigated the level of LDS Church leaders' involvement in the California Marriage Protection Act — better known as Proposition 8.

That measure was intended to change the California Constitution, by adding a section stating that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."

Proposition 8 was passed by popular vote in November 2008. (Up to that point, San Francisco and other communities had been allowing same-sex marriages for a limited time.)

Former Utah television newsman Cowan and Greenstreet (the 2005 documentary "This Divided State") interview Utah and California activists. But they spend most of the movie pointing fingers of blame in one direction — squarely at the LDS Church.

At no time do the filmmakers attempt to get the opinions of any of the 7 million-plus Californians who voted for Proposition 8, nor does their movie even mention exactly who sponsored and wrote the legislation in the first place.

And they never mention that California courts may have upheld the measure while still maintaining the validity of same-sex marriages that occurred before its passage, under the so-called "grandfather" clause.

Also, it's never stated whether the filmmakers tried to get LDS Church officials' input. Which is a pretty glaring omission.

"8: The Mormon Proposition" is rated R and features strong sexual language (profanity, crude slang and other sexually frank talk), derogatory language and slurs (some based on sexual orientation or religious beliefs), strong violent imagery (police beatings and rioting), other off-color language and references and a scene depicting interrogation. Running time: 78 minutes.

e-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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