The Mormon Proposition” with filmmaker Reed Cowan

(North Adams, Massachusetts) – 8: The Mormon Proposition, termed “an outstanding and urgent example of the investigative documentary” by The Los Angeles Times, screened at MASS MoCA on Thursday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. The screening of this controversial documentary about Mormon opposition to the California gay marriage law was followed by a Q&A with the director, Emmy award-winning journalist Reed Cowan.

Mormon missionaries smile as they sell their hateful message.

8: The Mormon Proposition began as a documentary about gay teen homelessness and suicide in Utah. After Cowan began filming, he soon realized that the impetus which drove otherwise loving parents to kick their children out of their homes and lives stemmed from a deep-seated homophobia perpetrated by the Mormon Church. The film morphed into an exposé of the fierce Mormon rejection of the gay community’s demand for equal rights.

The film documents the day California passed the law which granted homosexual citizens the right to marry. The movie then follows the passage and effect of Proposition 8 — the first law passed that took rights away from citizens. The story follows politicians, gay couples and activists, and the Mormon Church through the ravenous battle for equality and acceptance.

Reed Cowan didn't start out to be an activist for marriage equality.

8: The Mormon Proposition generated debate and controversy before and after its release. The night before the 2010 Sundance Film Festival premiere, Utah Senator Chris Buttars accused filmmakers of deceiving him during the interview he participated in for the film. He claimed the crew was clad in t-shirts from Mormon-founded Birmingham Young University. Cowan responded by releasing a picture of himself and Buttars on the day of the interview — Cowan notably not dressed in a BYU tee — though Cowan he admitted that his photographer, a former BYU student, did wear BYU attire. Before the film’s Sundance screening, Cowan publicly asked for Buttars’s resignation.

The film is Cowan’s second full-length documentary. Formerly a journalist, Cowan began creating documentaries after a tragic accident prompted him to use self-documentation as a tool for releasing personal pain and grief. In 2006, while working for the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Cowan was called to the story of an accidental death of a child. When Cowan arrived at the scene, he realized the child’s death he was called to report on was his son’s. It was then that Cowan began a documentary, The Other Side of the Lens, about his project to build schools for AIDS orphans in Kenya in his son’s name.

8: The Mormon Proposition is a part of MASS MoCA’s Cinema Lounge Series, Power to the People, adocumentary series which features the stories of courage, uprising, and perseverance in the face of injustice, oppression, and marginalization. Other documentaries in the series include A Small Act, which will show on April 14, and The Garden screening on April 28. All Cinema Lounge films are shown in MASS MoCA’s Club B-10 where patrons can enjoy a full bar, coffee, tea, and snacks such as ice cream in the café-style screening area.

Tickets for 8: The Mormon Proposition are $8. Students can purchase reduced tickets for $5. Members are eligible for a 10% discount. Tickets to all 3 films are available for $20 for a package price of $18. Tickets are available through the MASS MoCA Box Office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open from 11AM to 5PM every day but Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 during Box Office hours or online at at any time.

MASS MoCA, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the United States, is located off Marshall Street in North Adams on a 13-acre campus of renovated 19th-century factory buildings. The Cinema Lounge Series is supported (in part) by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. MASS MoCA is an independent 501c(3) whose operations and programming are funded through admissions and commercial lease revenue, corporate and foundation grants, and individual philanthropy. Except for an initial construction grant from the Commonwealth, and competitive program and operations grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, MASS MoCA is privately funded: 90% of annual operating revenues are from earned revenues, membership support, and private gifts and grants.

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