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Filmmaker Reed Cowen: '8: The Mormon Proposition' movie's distribution rights sold

SALT LAKE CITY — A film distribution company has bought the rights to a documentary about the Mormon church's role in a California ballot initiative to ban gay marriage.

Filmmaker Reed Cowan says "8: The Mormon Proposition" will hit theaters this spring and a DVD will follow. Cowan says he sold the film's North American distribution rights to the newly formed Red Flag Releasing.

The film, which had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival last month, is Red Flag's first acquisition, said Paul Federbush, a partner in the company.

"I think it's a very important issue to us, not only gay marriage, but the issue of separation of church and state," said Federbush. "We saw it at Sundance and felt it connected with the audience."

The film drew strong reactions from Sundance viewers, including sustained standing ovations and tears. Some critics dismissed the movie as anti-Mormon propaganda.

Cowan declined to disclose the financial details of the deal. He said he's also in talks with others for an international distribution deal.

Narrated by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, the 80-minute movie contends that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the driving force behind Proposition 8. The initiative reversed a court decision that legalized gay marriage.

"I'm pretty excited," said Cowan, a former Mormon who is gay. "Now the film does truly go on to be seen all over the United States and people can decide for themselves."

Based on materials about the movie posted on the Internet, church officials have denounced the film as inaccurate and biased. But at the time of the Jan. 24 premiere, they said they hadn't seen the movie.

On Thursday, church spokeswoman Kim Farah declined to comment on the film's distribution deal.

The LDS Church's nonmonetary in-kind contributions to the successful passage of Proposition 8 in California were less than 1 percent of the amount raised for the Yes on 8 campaign, or $189,903. Many individual church members, however, contributed to the campaign.