Orange Sunshine takes you back to the heart of the hippy movement, where a group of free-wheelin’, drug-dealin’ young acidheads implement an unprecedented mass distribution plan for their product.
The self-titled Brotherhood of Eternal Love form the focal point of William A. Kirkley’s documentary, the group of idealistic drug suppliers and smugglers whose laboratory at one point produced over 100 million doses of LSD. Their (pretty unusual) story is told without judgement or glorification, allowing for a real emphasis on the personal reality of the group. There are touching details of the relationships between the dealers, so it is very easy to somewhat side with their experience. We are led to believe, reasonably convincingly, that these gentle hippies were dealing simply to ‘spread the love’. The murky moral reality of their actions, however, is never satisfyingly explored.
“enjoyably told, from its well-intentioned beginnings to the inevitable incarcerated end”
The scale of the operation is inherently interesting, and indeed, Orange Sunshine manages to wring a great deal of appeal from the nature of their smuggling. There is invention and entrepreneurial ingenuity to be found in their operation, anecdotes and statistics in which the documentary delights. Through interviews, archival footage, and re-creations, the tale of the group is effectively and enjoyably told, from its well-intentioned beginnings to the inevitable incarcerated end.
The film’s apparent refusal to offer any real condemnation may put some people off, but Orange Sunshine’s biggest problem is simply in drumming up enough of a narrative. The LSD experience is one that many filmmakers have tried to recreate or represent, and Kirkley, in fairness, never purports to try. This means, however, that we are left with a documentary that is partly euphemistic – if not in word, then in tone – about its subject matter, unwilling to ask the most difficult questions of its subjects, and without quite enough narrative substance to hang on its structure.
That said, Orange Sunshine is an enjoyable, interesting enough dip into a specific patch of American social history, and a very fine watch for anyone curious about the hidden logistics of hippy drug culture.
Image: William A. Kirkley