LDS Film Festival 2009

While there is much ado about the Sundance Film Festival, here in Park City, Utah, there is another film festival which starts today in Orem, called the LDS Film Festival.  I went last year, and loved some of the movies.  The festival runs through Saturday.

Certainly, many of the movies here are not up to Hollywood standards, but they can leave some lasting impressions.  I thought I would review some of last year’s favorites, and add some that I hope to see this year.  Unfortunately, I have to work, so I can’t see all the ones I would like to see.

Last year’s favorites:

  • Emma Smith:  My Story. Dramatic re-enactments tells Emma’s side of the restoration.
  • Errand of Angels.  Dramatic re-enactments of a sister missionary in Switzerland.
  • The Untold Story of Black Mormons.  Documentary gives many facts about early black mormon converts.
  • Happy Valley.  Documentary showing problems with prescription drug abuse in Utah.  It highlights several true stories of people struggling with addictions, and makes the point that the drug problem hits all areas of life:  rich, poor, LDS, non-LDS.  Synopsis here.
  • Forever Strong.  Based on true stories of the Highland Rugby Team, perennial national champions.  The movie is a compilation of stories over the years, and tells of a young man’s attempts to put his drunk driving past behind him, while playing rugby.  The website is here.

This is a list of movies I want to see this year.

  • Father in Israel.  Christian Vuissa is the director and founder of LDS Film Festival.  He also directed last year’s “Errand of Angels.”  Christian always has stunnning cinematography.  His stories are always personal.  I would put his method of story telling in the same category as movies like “Driving Miss Daisy.”
  • Mormon Mythellaneous.  There is a book out with the same name, dealing with mormon urban legends, some of which have threads of truth, like, “did Elvis read the Book of Mormon”, “Lionel Richie/Steve Martin investigated church”, etc.
  • Love Letters from Joseph to Emma
  • Mario’s Conviction:  One man’s journey from Mafia to Mormon
  • Gordon B Hinckley:  God makes a Giant among men
  • Inheritance of War – true stories of WW2 prisoners
  • Shots Fired – documentary of Trolley Square shootings in SLC in Feb 2007
  • Diantha’s Crossing – The year is 1858. Salt Lake City has been abandoned by order of Brigham Young in anticipation of the arrival of U.S. armed forces. Diantha Clay is left behind and converses with a quiet stranger.

So, I’d love to hear some reviews, and I’ll try to review as many as I can.  Also, if anyone has reviews from last year, I’d love to hear those as well.

12 comments on “LDS Film Festival 2009

  1. MH, what did you think of “Emma Smith: My Story?” I haven’t seen it, but I’ve read some mixed reviews. Did it really tell her story, in your opinion?

  2. FD,

    I’ll answer the question best I can, and let you come to your own conclusion. The movie tells many stories from Emma’s point of view. For example, the way she eloped with Joseph is a big part. While I knew she lost children at childbirth, I hadn’t realized how many, and how heartbreaking it was. (My wife was moved to tears.) Her father did not like Joseph, and this is apparent. When Joseph was tarred, he returned home at night. When Emma opened the door, she thought he was covered in blood, and fainted. She also alludes to the “Curse of Eve”, which isn’t really talked about in church today. There is also a scene where Emma asked Joseph for a blessing. He responded for her to write the blessing down, asking for whatever she wanted to be blessed with, and he would sign it. Can you imagine such a thing today? The movie took a little dramatic license on this incident, because in reality, Joseph was in jail, not face to face as portrayed in the movie, but I was amazed at how historically accurate most of the movie was. There were many little known church history incidents that were portrayed, as well as many well-known incidents.

    The movie covers mostly her life from her courtship with with Joseph, to his death. It does talk briefly about polygamy, and Emma says she does not want to talk about it because it was “awful.” Finally, it does mention that she remarried Lewis Bidamon, by a justice of the peace, and that he has an affair, resulting in the birth of a new child. Emma ends up hiring the mother to work in the hotel, and when she dies, Emma adopts the child. I don’t know any women who would do such a thing.

    One of the nice things about the festival is the ability to ask the filmmakers questions. One person asked why they didn’t cover the period of the RLDS. The filmmakers responded that the movie was already 2 hours, and if it made enough money, perhaps they would produce a sequel to cover that part of her life.

    I really enjoyed the movie, and would highly recommend it. The filmmakers also told us that many of Joseph’s descendants moved to Australia, and about of 1/3 of them still live in Australia today.

  3. Thanks, MH, that intrigues me. I think my parents bought it, so I’m going to see it next time I’m home.

  4. I am excited to see “The Long Look on Life” It is closing out the festival Saturday night. One of my friends got a chance to see a private screening of it when the film was still in post production and he says it is one of the most beautiful films he has seen. I think it plays at 9:30pm. Can’t wait! here is a link to the synopsis and trailer.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDpUxdXOA1s

  5. I’ll have to check out that link. I’m working Sat night, so I won’t be able to check out that film. Nathan, be sure to give us a review! Also, let me know if you see any others. I worked last night, and wasn’t able to see the opening film either.

  6. Hi! I saw Father in Isreal on Wednesday night at the LDS Film Festival – it was GREAT! There was one scene in particuler – outside the temple – where the husband tells his wife why he won’t be attending their daughters wedding – wow – there wasn’t a dry eye in the house!

    The acting was SO real – the wifes face – she said a million words without even speaking. I don’t remember the name of the actress, but she was really natural and easy to watch.

    This is a must see movie about (fianlly!) a FUNCTIONAL family.

  7. Leigh, thanks so much for the review. I really wanted to see that movie, because I really have liked the director. Unfortunately, I’m working during both of the showings.

    Did the director say that he plans on a theatrical release, or does he plan to go straight to DVD?

  8. Ok, I finally saw some movies. “Shots Fired” was a movie primarily aimed at law enforcement agencies, not the general public. With all the recent shootings like Columbine, the LDS Genealogy Library, the North Hollywood Bank robbery, and Virginia Tech, it emphasized the importance of law enforcement to have more realistic training. Trolley Square was almost a minor point of the film, except to show that the SLC and Ogden police departments had participated in this new training, and as a result were able to save many lives. One of the officers even stated that taking down the Trolley Square shooter was easier than his training, but once the “coast was clear”, he wasn’t prepared for the aftermath of all the terrible injuries and deaths inflicted by the shooter.

    The movie won’t be released for general distribution. It was interesting, but since the general public is not the target audience, I don’t know that I would recommend it unless you are in law enforcement.

  9. “Reserved to Fight” was an excellent documentary. I highly recommend it. It debuted nationally on PBS in November, and the producers are hoping to run in again around Memorial Day. The PBS site is http://www.pbs.org/reservedtofight/

    Basically, it follows about 4 members of a marine reserve unit after they returned from their tour of duty in Iraq in 2003. All have psychological problems. One of them left on an LDS mission. After about 6 months in S Africa, he started having nightmares, and was unable to sleep. He returned home after about 10 months due to depression.

    They are also accepting pre-orders for a DVD, which can be found at http://www.reservedtofight.com/reserved/

    One a strange personal note, the documentary mentions briefly that one of their fellow marines confessed to drowning his girlfriend in a bathtub. The 4 marines were all shocked. The murderer (Walter Smith) actually went out with my sister a few years ago. My sister said he was really weird, and they only went out a few times–thank heaven! If you’re interested, there’s a great article at http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/20/america/vets.php

    My hat is off to these veterans for their service to our country. I wish better mental health services were available to these valiant men.

  10. There is an interesting article over at Mormon Times. It poses the question about whether LDS filmmaking should be marketed to LDS only, or “crossover” to non-LDS markets.

    I have my opinion, but what does everyone else think?

    The article is here. http://www.mormontimes.com/arts_entertainment/movies/?id=5959

  11. Great post MH- Can you contact me when you get a minute

  12. I’d prefer that LDS films be “crossover” films. However, there I believe that the market is big enough to support both types. I just think that crossover films would have a more beneficial impact on the LDS film market.

    James, you can email me at mormon heretic at gmail dot com. What is this regarding?

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