Just a few days before L.A. Gay Pride weekend, Reed Cowan, a TV journalist in Miami, talked with L.A. Weekly about his superb documentary on Proposition 8 that was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and now opens in theaters across the country on June 18 — two days after closing arguments will be heard at the historic Prop. 8 federal trial in San Francisco.
“To be honest,” said Cowan during a phone interview, “I cried when I heard the results about Proposition 8 on election night (in 2008). When you lose California, you can lose just about anywhere.”
Titled 8: The Mormon Proposition, the film, with narration by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, takes an unblinking, in-depth look at the Mormon church's major role in helping to pass the anti-gay marriage ballot measure, which took away the existing right of gays and lesbians to legally marry in California.
“Proposition 8 in California is an example of a religion stripping away the rights of a minority,” says Cowan.
The journalist, like many other gays and lesbians across the country, was keeping close tabs on the developments of the Proposition 8 campaign throughout the summer and fall of 2008. When the ballot measure passed, Cowan, who was already working on a documentary involving Mormons, decided to widen the scope of the film.
“We'll never put the Mormons out of business,” says Cowan, who lives with a longtime partner and two adopted children. “but we have to learn about their game plan. Their game plan is to completely strip us — gays and lesbians — of all of our rights.”
When the Mormon Proposition debuted in Utah at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, the film generated lines around the block, tons of buzz, and long Q & A sessions after showings.
“We lanced a wound,” says Cowan. “People were coming up to us and saying that finally the truth was being told about the Mormon church.”
Working on the documentary also made the filmmaker realize a few things about religion, politics, and activism.
“We don't need to knock on the doors of any church or temple to get our equality,” says Cowan. “We need to knock on the doors of our lawmakers. There's no more kissing of the ring.”
He adds, “I have to advocate for the best world for my children, and I hope other people will realize that and do that, too…When I go to bed at night, I know I have at least contributed.”
Cowan says Dustin Lance Black's work on the film was invaluable.
“He brought an element of credibility to us that I'll never forget,” says the director, noting that 8: The Mormon Proposition was the first project Black agreed to do after he won his Oscar for writing the Milk screenplay. “Lance refused payment for this film, and he traveled across the country (to promote it). He's the real deal.”
As for the work that still needs to be done in the gay rights movement, especially around this time of year with Gay Pride events taking place around the country, Cowan says, “I'd love to divert the (Gay Pride) parades and direct them into the neighborhoods and see us having conversations with people.”
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.