The festival concluded over the weekend with a new attendance record set of approximately 6000 at 40 different events. I am not going to attempt to be all inclusive in this entry, but only wish to share some thoughts that are mostly personal regarding the festival and my participation in it this year.
Festival Highlights – As a volunteer, I don’t get to see as many films as others do, but I felt privileged to sit in on several presentations and screenings that were very engaging and inspiring.
“Nobody Knows “
By far, the hidden gem and perhaps most important film of this year’s festival was a two hour documentary discussing the history of Black Mormons, “Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.” Don’t let the name confuse you, this is a play on words with the title. Though not initiated by the Church, this is direct testimony of many faithful African-American Latter-day Saints and their struggles. It is in perfect harmony with the Church and its teachings. In fact, the film takes tremendous strides to make sense of diverse Church policies and history that had affected the African-Amercians and brings them together into a comprehensive whole.
I appreciated how this film avoided the use of celebrities and prominent leaders to tell its story. While there are plenty of references to the roles of key leaders in the discussions presented, this is a story of an ordinary people and their simple yet amazing faith in God. There are perspectives that I would have never considered and insights that, as a white American Mormon, I would have never thought to consider, yet are a beautiful manifestation of their faithfulness despite their situation. Produced by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Grey, this film is a must see for every Latter-day Saint and anyone interested in the topics of Mormonism, diversity, religious tolerance, or the civil rights movement.
Though, it received no awards nor honorable mentions at this years festival, “Illuminaries” by Scott Wilhite was the one film that I woke up with in my head Monday morning after the festival, which left me inspired and wanting to do more for and in the LDS Film movement. Produced expressly for BYU’s Annual Fund, this short film without words explores the process of sharing your light with others, through the symbolic use of candles. Effective lighting, acting, and use of a vocal musical accompaniment, were some of the elements that assembled together make this a powerfully motivating piece.
Other thoughts – As this was my second year at the festival as a formal volunteer, I had a hard time maintaining for myself a proper focus on my duties as a volunteer. Of course, I very much enjoyed mingling with friends and associates, old classmates and regular festival attendees. This is actually for me one of the highlights of the festival is the human, social interaction, which, I tend to agree with Christian, is unique to this festival.
There is a sense of service that, at times, I found myself ignoring.
If in fact the Lord is smiling down upon this festival, which I feel is the case, then it is not for me to behave myself in any other way than as would behoove a obedient servant. While I shouldn’t go so far as to directly affiliate the festival with the Church, we are a direct outgrowth of it. If there were no Church there would be no festival. So I feel a great indebtedness to the Lord, Whose Church is the chief influencing factor upon this festival. Thus my behavior, simple, sincere, courteous, and so forth, ought to be a direct reflection of Him… even at a film festival.
For more information about the LDS Film Festival wrap up, visit ldsfilmfestival.org