Film Review: Orange Sunshine
Set in an era unbeknown to today's youth it seems hard to imagine a time when LSD initially, was not illegal. Although LSD was difficult to come by the 60's was a period of time that would become synonymous with self-exploration and the popularization of the term hippies. The hippie culture would have repercussions throughout the ages with the ideals it held.
Long before the aggressive stance on drugs that many governments have now taken, there was a group of individuals with a simple ideal, bringing love and well-being to the masses. How would they do this? By providing all men and women with the mind-bending drug LSD, or in their case, Orange Sunshine. Their own mass-produced LSD that would come to be the drug that defined an era.
The film “Orange Sunshine” is a throwback to a period in time when spiritual revolution superseded wealth and riches. Directed by William Kirkley is features a group that would come to be known as the “Brotherhood of Eternal Love”, a somewhat motley crew united by one vision. This documentary style film uses a mixture of interview style footage from the founding members as well as pictures and recreations of events by actors. All packaged together in 8mm style filter the result is a lively and aesthetically pleasing 93 minutes, somewhat like a sunny retro thriller in the way the narrative is told.
The story centres around a young couple, John and Carol who, after experiencing their first trip pack up the conventional lifestyle of employment, mortgage and kids to live communally with like minded individuals. Now they don't actually abandon their kids but you get the idea, driven by what John describes as “divinity running through him”, himself and best friend Michael Randall, brothers Rick and Ron Bevan and surf-shop owner Travis Ashbrook. United under the title of the “Brotherhood of eternal love” their journey would take them across America with the sole purpose of enlightening the masses or a phrase that is used often by the members “turn on the world”. The idea that psychoactive drugs, namely LSD could open people's eyes and allow for a much more connected society.
Whilst this film does and incredible job of painting the charismatic members at the centre of the brotherhood, it is ultimately about the manufacture and distribution of LSD. And whilst initially the drug wasn't illegal, the film sees the introduction of the war on drugs. A war that would bring those swinging sixties to an end. Watch in awe as the group seems protected by some divine intervention, much like the pilgrimage they claimed to be on, as blunder after blunder keeps them out of handcuffs. This lucky escapism does seem slightly surreal at times made even more prominent when the film features an interview with the chief police officer looking at the case at the time. Some 50 years later he is still unamused and very opposing of the groups activities, despite their commitment to the goal of mass enlightenment rather than for profit or greed.
In summary, this film heralds back to a time far simpler in nature. You only need to watch a few of the interviews featured to see that even now, after serving prison time the original members still believe in the mantra of their brotherhood. Tied together by something stronger than blood they really did want to “turn on the world” after the almost biblical trips they had had at the hands of LSD. Orange Sunshine achieved legendary status in its day and this film does a great job of capturing that purity whilst telling the story in a compelling manner. Even if drug culture is not your preference this film can still be enjoyed for its encapsulation of the human spirit and the desire to change the world for greater good. The swinging sixties may have long since ended but this desire for a better more open and understanding world lives on.
Written by: Josh
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