Spanning two decades, and trips across continents from Orange County to Afghanistan and enough drug-taking to make Howard Marks turn in his grave, Orange Sunshine is a fascinating documentary with an incredible story to tell.
In Orange County, 1960, when a group of young hippies discovered the then very expensive psychoactive substance LSD, their minds were immediately blown. John Griggs in particular found it a life-changing spiritual experience and gathered his wife Carol and closest friends around him to create the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, part druggie cult, part business enterprise. Their mission was not to make profit, but to make as much LSD as possible and make it as cheap to purchase as thy could. The goal? To ‘turn the world on’ and realise a spiritual revolution where people forgot their obsession with material possessions and love would start to fight back against the constant presence of war in the world.
Looking at the world today, it's hard not to wish the Brotherhood of Eternal Love had been more successful in their task. As one interviewee attests, the sixties were the perfect storm where the youth decided to drop out, resist being sent to fight a war in Vietnam and find a purer connection between their fellow human beings… all fuelled by mind-expanding drugs, the best of which the Brotherhood became suppliers of.
Using talking head interviews with all f the core group of Eternal Lovers, as well as sun-dappled reconstructions filmed on Super-8 cameras, director WilliamA. Kirkley tells this magical, optimistic tale of the naïve but admirable Brotherhood as they smuggled hash across continents, ran rings around the authorities and created a peace-loving utopian community in Laguna Beach in the sixties.
Unsurprisingly, the party can't last forever, and while Orange Sunshine is completely biased towards its ageing hippie subjects, it does show the dream come crushing down around its idealistic protagonists. The now-wrinkled, but no less life-loving characters are a sprightly bunch, and most are an apparent testament to the lack of danger that surrounded their lifestyle choices. But, Orange Sunshine also contains emotional scenes where the casualties of the era are discussed in detailed terms. It’s a shame there isn’t also some discussion on the negative effects that these drugs may have been having on the wider society.
How much sympathy you have for these storytellers will depend on your personal attitude, and perhaps own experiences with drugs. But whether your mind is open to what the Brotherhood set out to achieve or not, Orange Sunshine is a riveting documentary with an exciting, thought-provoking, tragic and hopeful story to tell. Sit back and enjoy the vibe.
ORANGE SUNSHINE / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR
& SCREENPLAY: WILLIAM A. KIRKLEY / STARRING: AUSTIN ARNOLD, TYLER MAURO,
FRENCESCA GALASSI / RELEASE DATE: TBA