SXSW Film Review: Orange Sunshine

Posted in Film, Reviews, SXSW
By Sam Bathe on 15 Mar 2016

The remarkable story of one of the most influential illegal drug organisations you’ve never heard of, Orange Sunshine is William A. Kirkley’s ground-breaking documentary about hippie group, the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.

When founder John Griggs introduced LSD to his friends, he didn’t fully understand the power of what had just begun. Stirring a philosophy of spiritual enlightenment, the group took to producing the drug – dubbed Orange Sunshine – to spread their “psychedelic revolution” across the globe, and not before long, a bunch of West Coast hippies had unwittingly gotten very serious with drug production. Diversifying into hashish importation from as far away as Afghanistan, the group never wanted to prosper financially but they soon grew so large, federal attention was inevitable.

Orange Sunshine follows the Brotherhood of Eternal Love’s low-key beginnings before becoming one of the most influential groups in the hippie movement, nay the world. Through a mixture of talking heads and stylised reenactments, Kirkley was able to gain access to never-before-seen photos, videos and other materials from the founding members themselves. In fact for most of those speaking on camera, this was the first time they have shared their story to the fullest extent.

Though many members of the Brotherhood spent years on the run, living abroad and/or under fake names, nearly all of them found themselves under arrest at some point. Now all long released, it’s a pleasure to see them reminisce about what was obviously such an important and remarkable time in their lives. Unsurprisingly, none are even the slightest bit remorseful.

While the film is very snappy, the reinactments aren’t always a success, and as the film tries to create thriller narrative in-amongst the detail-oriented plot, the Orange Sunshine stutters as it changes pace. The reinactments take up at least a third of the movie, but the composition always fees a little off despite being shot like grainy 8mm home movies.

To gain the trust of the Brotherhood members and convince them to tell their remarkable story was a great achievement by Kirkley, but you feel there is a better movie in there than Orange Sunshine. T his isn’t a bad movie, far from it, but the story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love is just such a remarkable tale, Orange Sunshine doesn’t quite do it justice.


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