Reed Cowan actually discusses his history and his motives in a June 16th interview published by Washington City Paper. Cowan grew up as a Mormon, but still realizing he was gay. However, he was faithful to the Church, served a two-year full-time mission, and got married to a woman. The union produced a child. Nevertheless, the marriage turned rocky, and his wife ultimately left him, taking their son. The boy lost his life in a backyard accident four years ago.
Cowan originally intended merely to make a documentary on gay homeless youth, with a focus on Salt Lake City. But after the Proposition 8 controversy brewed up, and Cowan noticed that the LDS Church had taken a public stand in support of the measure, he decided to reexamine his focus and transform the project into a documentary about the LDS role in Proposition 8. After the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, there was mixed reaction; while he did have some support, he also faced a lot of push-back.
A semi-official LDS website has reacted. Jeff Vice has posted a review on the Mormon Times, which while not an official LDS website, is operated by the Deseret News, which is owned by the LDS Church. Vice says that the biggest problem with the film is not just that it's so one-sided, it's also that it is so inept and ineffective in terms of storytelling. He claims it's as if the filmmakers went into the project without a specific direction, aside from making an obvious statement by spending most of the movie pointing fingers of blame in one direction — squarely at the LDS Church. The resulting product feels rambling and unfocused. Vice also notes that the filmmakers never attempted to get the opinions of any of the 7 million-plus Californians who voted for Proposition 8, neglected to 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, and never stated whether the filmmakers tried to get LDS Church officials' input. To add insult to injury, the movie is rated "R" and features strong sexual language, derogatory language and slurs, strong violent imagery, and a scene depicting interrogation.
Other critical reaction has been posted from strictly unofficial LDS blogs. Back on April 27th, 2010, FaithPromotingRumor initially characterized it as a fantastic and provocative film which could be essential viewing for anyone interested in the subject of Mormonism and homosexuality. FPR saw a great deal to praise in this film, not least of which bringing to the screen many powerful stories and characters. Yet FPR also saw much to be critical of here. FPR spotted two serious omissions; first, the lack of reference to recent more moderate statements on homosexuality by LDS leaders, and second, failure to acknowledge that the Church today has no objection to any of the measures to provide rights to gays and lesbians, including couples, short of calling them “marriage.” In the final analysis, FPR believes that the film fails to live up to the ideals of productive conversations, representation of critical issues, and attempts at cooperative partnership with Mormons. To the extent that it presents Mormons and Mormonism as an enemy, it creates a self-fulfilling prophesy and only perpetuates antagonism, hostility, mistrust, and fear that gays and lesbians are out to get Mormons.
A more recent review was published on June 28th, 2010 on One Eternal Round. KevinB opines that the movie primarily preaches to the choir; while the documentary actually contains some valuable material related to homosexuality in the U.S. today, particularly within the LDS Church, which could have formed the basis of a documentary with a positive impact on gay relations today, it is unfortunately surrounded pointless and intellectually dishonest material that will only serve to alienate any members of the audience who aren’t already in the “choir”. KevinB identifies four characteristics which show that not only was the movie NOT intended to attract faithful Mormons, but deliberately offended them instead:
-- No faithful Mormons are presented sympathetically, as noted above. 8 pretends faithful Mormons who were ambivalent to (or directly opposed to) Prop 8 don’t exist — an immediate turn off for those members who could have been the most accessible audience for the film to reach out to.
-- It’s narrowly focused on “gay marriage in California” instead of the larger issue — charity towards gays, especially gay Mormons. 8 doesn’t believe that one can develop greater charity towards gays as fellow human beings and children of a common God without needing to support legalized gay marriage at the same time. 8 defines “charity towards gays” AS “supporting legalized gay marriage”. That’s far too narrow and limiting, especially when the most emotional and moving parts of the documentary have NOTHING to do with gay marriage.
-- It’s rated R, because of three or four swear words and vulgar terms. While the “should Church members watch R-rated movies” debate is ongoing, the R-rating is still a huge handicap for attracting Mormon viewers. None of the profanity in 8 is vital to the content and could not have been cut for a lower rating.
-- Quotes from Church leaders out of context, scary music and audio cues whenever Church leaders are displayed on screen, questionable interpretations of LDS doctrine, and a host of other biased (and unnecessary) filmmaking tricks. Even the film poster (featuring a dark image of an unseen puppet master manipulating minions on strings — gee, who does the puppet master represent here?) is designed to scare off faithful Mormons.
One person identifying as a faithful gay Mormon posted a comment proffering his objections to the film and saying that he's sick and tired of gays always being marketed as "victims":
#16 Joshua Johanson on 28 Jun 2010 at 6:55 pm
Johanson responds to this comment “gay Mormons today face an almost surmountable challenge — how to “endure to the end” in a church that seems to despise them.”
You brought up this point made by the movie, but you did not counter it. That made it sound like you agreed with the movie that gay Mormons feel the church despises them.
Many gay Mormons, or Mormons with same-sex attractions (SSA), do not feel that the church despises them. One of my biggest problems with the film is that it portrays gay (or SSA) Mormons as depressed, suicidal drones with bad family relationships. I think that is a stereotype that only serves to alienate faithful SSA members of the church. Why didn’t the film interview faithful SSA Mormons?
I came out as a gay Mormon three years ago in my single adult ward. I did not hear ONE negative comment from any member of the ward. I still had a calling, a temple recommend, and tons of friends. My whole family knows and is very supportive. Since I have been married, I have been less open in my family ward, but only because there were so many kids.
My point is that while I wish things were different, there is no conflict between having gay feelings and being an active member of the Church. I think the doctrine that by putting off the natural I can be cleansed through the atonement of Christ is a beautiful doctrine. Many other people with SSA do to.
I thank Kevin for calling out for the need of greater acceptance of people with SSA in the church. However, I thought you could be more clear that many SSA Mormons are doing well in the Church. We are not all trying to change church doctrine to fit our natural man. Overall, however, I think it was a great review and I think you brought up several good points about how SSA Mormons could be treated better.
Excellent point. The gay rights lobby constantly portrays gays as victims, although many of them have more disposable income than average, since they don't have kids to spend their money on. Continuing to portray gays as endless victims could trigger backlash, just as the Holocaust lobby's enshrinement of Jews as endless victims is fueling anti-Semitism in Europe and even here in the United States. People are tired of hearing about endless victimhood - American is a nation of VICTORS, not victims.
I do not recommend watching "8: The Mormon Proposition", not because it will cause you to lose your testimony, but because it is clearly a waste of time and money.