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BFI London Film Festival: Orange Sunshine – Review

There is that image of the sixties and seventies that rolls around popular culture. The free-loving and high folks gesturing for peace and gesticulating with one another as drugs surge through their bloodstream. Donned in hues of browns and oranges, these American kids explore psychedelics and more in order to open their minds to the world around them. Stereotypical, these are the thoughts that come into our brains when we look at hippies of a by-gone era.

If you ever believe that this was just the collective fantasy of movies, your parents, and all those people who swore they attended Woodstock, then you were mistaken. The Brotherhood of Eternal Love (no, really,) is here to tell you the truth and their story of peddling LSD to awaken the masses.

Told through interviews with the original people, and recreations with actors and Super 8 aesthetics, Orange Sunshine – so called because of the group’s particular brand of drug – revolves around a little art shop and gallery space where the owners eventually developed into pushing the largest amount of the aforementioned drugs onto people. But as the free-wheeling, super-loving group find out, the man is always one step behind them.

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The documentary flows like a usual TV show: People talk about their history in chronological order, it’s spliced with news reels, and that is perfectly fine. But William A. Kirkley enhances this documentary with tones of era-based colour and the Super 8 montage greatly envisages this world. Folks such as Ron Bevan, Carol Randall, and John Griggs placate the film with stories about their lives whilst young actors repurpose their story. The juxtaposition is great and the intricate look at the world in which love ran as free as the LSD.

The biggest issue with Orange Sunshine is the clear one-sided treatment of the group. Look, I get it. For them and for those around them, acid opened their minds and taught them about enlightenment and they wanted to share that. Like, for a while during the film, I was convinced that I had to immediately pop whatever they were selling into my mouth and, just, like, experience it, man. But, you know, there are still dangers with the drug (spoiler alert: someone dies from a bad batch) and whilst I am all for experimenting with natural substances and psychedelics (your choice,) there seems to be a villainising of the police and people opposing the group for sound reasons (unlike Richard Nixon, who was a loon.)

The other quibble is that they don’t really look at what they do now. It’s fair enough to pound into the audience that taking drugs is the best time of their lives but when they no longer take the drug or sell it, it seems a bit contradictory, right? Not finding out the reason for this is irritating and further supports the one sided issue of the film.

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Despite this Orange Sunshine is very good. The love and the emotion is there, and through the subjects it portrays, Orange Sunshine finds a wonder. After all, as I said before, I find myself longing for this world that encompassed them and the love they all felt at this unit.

And it’s through them, that greatness flourishes.


Orange Sunshine played as part of the BFI London Film Festival. 
Read more reviews from LFF 2016! 

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