Sundance Film Festival

Will Mormons a see gay-marriage doc?

8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION

In his review of 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION, a documentary about the Mormon Church’s campaign to pass Prop. 8, the ballot initiative outlawing gay marriage in California, Variety’s Peter Debruge writes that the film is “mostly preaching to the converted.”

“Although controversy could spur interest, the pic hasn’t been as incendiary as one might expect playing just north of LDS HQ at the Sundance Film Festival,” Debruge asserts.

He may have spoken too soon.

True, when 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION opened at the festival on Sunday, the only protesters who showed up were there to support the film. Though Conservative Christians activists had been expected, none materialized. And it’s also probably true that the majority of the people in the audience for the premiere were sympathetic to the issues raised in Reed Cowan and Steven Greenstreet’s documentary and their pro-gay-marriage stance — in the Q&A after the show San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, a vocal opponent of Prop 8, was introduced and one man stood up to tearfully thank the filmmakers and declare that “the Mormon church won this battle, but they’re going to lose the war.”

Then again, another audience member declared that, though he’d voted for Prop 8, he was open to having a dialogue about the issue. And a woman who identified herself as both an active member of the Mormon Church and a supporter of same-sex marriage said she believed the church might come around on the issue. “I’ve seen change come to my church and I think it’s going to come again,” she said to applause, IndieWire reports.

And while a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman told the Salt Lake Tribune, which has run several articles and a powerful letter to the editor about the film, that it “had no desire” to comment on a movie that, “judging from the trailer and background material online,” appeared “obviously biased,” residents of Salt Lake City, where the church is based, have certainly been hearing a lot about the film. It has been covered in Salt Lake Magazine and on local TV stations, including Fox13Now, where director Cowan (a gay former Mormon) once worked as an intern, and is screening during the Festival not only for the imported filmsters in Park City, but also for everyday folk in Salt Lake City. The remaining showings of the film are all sold out.

Welcoming people of differing beliefs to the opening night screening, Cowan said, “In the end it is so important that we all unite in a dialogue.” Whether he’s preaching to the converted or reaching out to the faithful, the conversation is raging.