8 delves heavily into the pain that the anti-gay sentiment has caused people. Interviews are conducted with homeless youth, kicked out for being gay. Much is made of the fact that Utah has the highest proportion of youth suicides among young men in the entire country — a sad statistic that is made all the more painful in light of one Elder’s public comments that it would be better to be dead than to be gay.
Utah teenagers who told 8TMP director Reed Cowan "We live underground because our
Mormon families didn’t want us. There is no hope."
photo by David Daniels
A particularly painful sequence details the story of a young gay man who killed himself inside a church in 2000. Instead of being appalled, his parents wrote a book basically agreeing with the Church’s stance and applauding his decision to take his own life.
In another disturbing scene, a man recounts the truly horrific electroshock “therapy” he was forced to endure as a student at Brigham Young University (presumably in the 1980s). It makes the “reconditioning” scenes in A Clockwork Orange seem positively chipper and righteous in comparison.
It’s extremely difficult not to feel emotional during these sequences, though the film is very careful to place the blame on Church leaders, as opposed to everyday people. A reasonably comprehensive background in the Mormon faith (as it relates to homosexuality) is included for a helpful dose of perspective on the issue.
In fact, everyday Mormon folks are portrayed almost as much as victims as the queer people they were mobilized against. The case is made that these people were pressured so hard and so explicitly that they didn’t necessarily have much of a choice. Obedience is mentioned as one of the key tenants of the faith more than once, as is the idea that churchgoers were made to feel as if organizing for Prop 8 was literally in God’s plan.
Of course, as with all documentary films (particularly the incendiary ones), discerning viewers are encouraged to view with a dose of healthy skepticism. However, the case presented here feels rock-solid — and the evidence looks (to lay eyes, at least), positively damning. Church Leaders are incredibly upfront and public with their bigotry, and unless all of the documents and on-the-scene video has been faked, the makers of 8 have a very strong case.
The production values are slick — minus a few questionably amateur-looking effects oddly spliced in. There’s an excellent mix of interviews, archival video and on-the-scene video that captures the wild variety of emotions — the excitement of June 17, the heartbreak of Prop 8’s passing, the uneasy anger of anti-gay protesters clashing with queer activists and the shock and horror of some of the church’s dealings in politics (both on and off-the-record). It’s hands-down one of the most emotionally charged documentaries of the last decade.
The piece ends on a hopeful, fiery note — inspiring folks to get up and take action, and you’ll be hard-pressed not to be affected by the message. The point here is not to stir anti-Mormon sentiment — but to inspire LGBT folks and allies to fight back harder and be better organized.
Linda Williams Stay and Steve
Stay prepare to rally on
behalf of their lesbian daughter and gay son
photo by David Daniels
There is no better way to judge a documentary than the degree to which it gets under your skin — and by these merits, 8 is absolutely king in the LGBT rights arena. Watch it with a pillow to punch and a computer nearby to search for local queer activist organizations.
8: The Mormon Proposition opens in select theaters (and is available via On Demand) on June 18 and comes out on DVD on July 13. For more information on the film, check out the official website.