Mormon Cinema: The Next Big Thing

January 21, 2004 | 22 comments
By

So says the Village Voice in its latest issue. Here’s the link. (Thanks to greg.org (no relation) for the pointer.)

Tags: , ,

22 Responses to Mormon Cinema: The Next Big Thing

  1. Greg on January 21, 2004 at 6:26 pm

    By the way, here’s the link to the imdb site for “Latter Days,” including its obnoxious tagline. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0345551/

  2. Brent on January 21, 2004 at 11:10 pm

    How sad and disturbing. To suggest that Latter Days is a “Mormon” film by a “Mormon” filmmaker is like saying Tom Green (the polygamist) is “Mormon.”

  3. greg.org on January 22, 2004 at 3:45 am

    Cox, the director of Latter Day, is a fifth-generation, Nevada-raised RM, albeit one who takes clear and serious issue with the Church. And his main character is a missionary. Calling this a “Mormon film” by a “Mormon Filmmaker is way beyond a suggestion, it’s a fact; it’s certainly Mormon enough for the entertainment industry.

    Before God’s Army, “Mormon film” only meant Legacy and Johnny Lingo: official Church productions. Since that’s no longer the case, I would think that expands the reach of the “Mormon film” imprimatur beyond doctrine and education to culture and entertainment.

    Thanks for the link, btw.

  4. Brent on January 22, 2004 at 10:01 am

    I guess it all depends on what you mean by “Mormon film.” The Village Voice article talks about the G rated lifestlye of the Church and the films that revolve around that lifestlye. To me, a Mormon film is not one merely involving a Mormon character, one which from the storyline should not be Mormon by the end of the movie.

  5. Mary on January 22, 2004 at 10:53 am

    I liked the Village Voice article. I thought it was very detailed in its knowledge about current Mormon cinema. It’s probably one of the best articles I’ve read about the current Mormon filmmaking craze.

    I also happened to read an article about the film “Latter Days” in “Out” magazine. (My public library subscribes and I saw the cover and the tag for the story about the movie.) The director of the film talked about his mission experience, said that he’d been a faithful missionary and decided to break away from the Church after his mission. It was kind of weird and hard reading about his mission experiences and feelings. It was also weird reading about the movie. The show was supposed to open in Salt Lake city but no theatre will show it (according to Eric Snider). Many people claim censorship, Snider says word on the street is that the film stinks.

    I’m a fan of Mormon cinema, or at least what I’ve seen of it. If the filmmaking doesn’t improve or if we don’t venture out into more controversial territory than home teaching or missionary work, at least we’ll have the films as a document of this era. I’ve especially been enjoying the films of Blair Treu. He doesn’t make films that have Mormonism as a focus but his latest two films were shot in Utah, he uses some local actors, and his film “Little Secrets” is delightful.

  6. Brent on January 22, 2004 at 11:00 am

    I obviously agree that the films need to improve, but I don’t understand why we need to venture out into “more controversial” territory, if what you mean is the likes of Latter Days or Orgasmo (another wonderful film about a “Mormon” missionary). Why not make films about different things that simply involve Mormon characters (characters who adhere to church teachings and values). Tom Clancy uses Mormons in his books all the time and he portrays them rather accurately from what I understand.

  7. Mary on January 22, 2004 at 11:35 am

    I guess I shouldn’t have said controversial, I meant to say something like, more nuanced, or emotionally engaging, (like where Brigham City was heading or where the Other Side of Heaven tried to head), than the current fare. I think both types of filmmaking (the goofy movies of HaleStorm and the efforts of Dutcher, Ryan Little, and the like) are valuable. And I do want more Mormon movies with just plain ol’ Mormon characters. That would be great and I hope it is happening somewhere.

  8. Greg on January 22, 2004 at 2:00 pm

    I haven’t seen many of the new Mormon movies. I did see God’s Army and Brigham City, and was greatly encouraged by the tremendous progress evident between the former and the latter. But most of the sit-commy Mormon movies seem (from what I’ve read about them) silly and amateurish.

    But I am optimistic for the future about films that engage Mormonism as both a religion and a culture. If we are supposed to develop our own Shakespeares and Miltons, we are surely supposed to develop our own Kieslowskis and Truffauts, and even Spielbergs. We should expect that some of these films will be “controversial” (either offensive to some Mormons or offensive to the world) and include characters that do not “adhere to church teachings.” They would hardly be worth seeing otherwise.

  9. Kaimi on January 22, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    I suspect that Greg (Call) is refering to a comment on Greg (Allen)’s site about people wanting to be a Mormon Spielberg:

    “Anyway, my gut tells me a movie has to be good before it’s Mormon; if Dutcher wants to be a Mormon Spielberg, more power to him, but that’s just aiming for the middle(brow).”

    (See http://greg.org/2004_01_01_archive.html#107420441865250397 ).

    As for me, I’m with Greg Call on this. The state of LDS cinema has been pretty bad. Spielberg may be considered middlebrow by cineasts, but I would rather have a Mormon Spielberg come along, then accept the current state as we wait around for a Mormon Kurosawa.

  10. brayden on January 22, 2004 at 2:12 pm

    How about a Mormon Kubrick? Can you imagine that combination?

  11. Randy on January 22, 2004 at 2:51 pm

    I think that tops even a Mormon Terry McAuliffe.

  12. lyle on January 22, 2004 at 2:54 pm

    re: this movie where an LDS Missionary is ‘seduced’ into coming out of the closet…

    why even dignify it with the label mormon? apostate, pure and simple, seems more apt.

  13. Greg Call on January 22, 2004 at 3:01 pm

    Brayden, I would _love_ it if a Mormon film could capture the visual and aural force of “2001.” That film is quite religious in a sense, and it is surely one of the masterpieces of the form.

  14. brayden on January 22, 2004 at 3:03 pm

    Yep, and if you could combine that with the genius and hilarity of Dr. Strangelove, you’d have a Mormon masterpiece.

  15. clark goble on January 22, 2004 at 7:46 pm

    I can see it now. The Mormon version of _2001_. The name? _Hie to Kolob_ obviously.

    Come on. Admit it. That LSD inspired fly over of Lake Powell at the end of _2001_ made you think of hieing to Kolob. LSD is only a bit off from LDS…

  16. greg.org on January 22, 2004 at 11:40 pm

    I think that “why even dignify it with the label mormon?” lies close to my unease; we can criticize a movie’s content or quality (“apostate” and “bad” and “self-serving” may apply here, depending) but I don’t see how we can choose whether it’s “Mormon” or not.

    It’s not like the Dogme film movement, where you have to submit your film for certification.

  17. brayden on January 23, 2004 at 12:45 am

    Or perhaps we could do an MTC-based version of A Clockwork Orange. Everytime a missionary hears Called to Serve he goes crazy and starts baptizing every living creature in his path.

  18. Greg Call on January 23, 2004 at 3:32 am

    You’re on a roll Brayden; what can you do with _Lolita_ or _Eyes Wide Shut_?

    Also, I’m with the other Greg. A movie made by someone from within the Mormon culture about Mormon culture is a Mormon movie (whether it criticizes the culture or not).

  19. Clark Goble on January 23, 2004 at 4:52 am

    I think the problem is the distinction between Mormon culture and Mormon religion. Sort of like how there are lots of cultural Jews but rather few who are very religious.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think to most active Mormons the term Mormon refers to active believing Mormons and is based upon *that* culture. There certainly is a larger culture that includes people who are largely unbelieving, have left the church, or who are simply not that well informed or active.

    To an outsider, probably on the basis of Jewish or Catholic culture, where many don’t believe, then Mormon culture includes unbelievers or less active. However I personally hope that Mormon film and literature is more focused on active Mormons since that is what is significant to me.

    Certainly others are influenced by my culture. But then there are many not “of” Mormon culture who are influenced as well. If we define culture so loosely that those only nominally associated are “Mormon” then we really ought to include those totally not of the culture who happen to adopt elements. But at that point the term is so diluted that I’m not sure it is helpful.

  20. Kaimi on January 23, 2004 at 12:26 pm

    Brayden,

    That sounds more _Manchurian Candidate_ than _Clockwork Orange_.

  21. idgit on April 22, 2004 at 10:11 pm

    give it up, idgits!

  22. Nathan on December 21, 2004 at 2:17 am

    Personally, my 2 favorite “mormon” movies are RUBIN & ED and PLAN 10 FROM OUTER SPACE. Way better than NAPOLEAN DYNAMITE.
    What attracted me to this is that I saw LATTER DAYS, & I was just amazed at how accurate the depiction was of the Mormon experience. I thought surely somebody involved with this film knew something about Mormon culture, but why did I not read or hear about it? I’m just surprised it didn’t make a bigger impact.
    Personally, I am not a big fan of some aspects of Mormonism, but I still consider myself part of that culture, & films like LATTER DAYS are absolutely necessary. They reflect maturity & credibility to the “outside” world, and cause insiders to exercise their minds more often.
    I found LATTER DAYS to be a little heavy handed at times, but mostly fair and accurate.