This week, I find myself in the company of my cousin and her family, whom we have only had infrequent contact with over the years. Her spouse, a filmmaker by passion and trade, has remained aloof from the LDS Film and Cinema scene. Having something more of a front row seat to the action surrounding the LDS/Mormon Cinema movement, he asked me last evening, “What happened to the Mormon Cinema?”
Grappling for an adequate explanation, I found myself floundering for a moment or two. Then, as a premise for the discussion that followed, I observed that I felt no one was telling our story very effectively. We talked for several minutes about the the different films that had been produced. Then he asked me about another two or three films that he felt got to the heart and core of the movement. I observed that they were all about missionaries, then the loaded question was laid at his feet, “Is your story of any less merit or worth, just because you didn’t serve a mission? ”
He thought about that for a moment, and then simply said, “No, of course not.” I validated his response, and reinforced that initial observation. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of all the stories that are to be told through the LDS/Mormon Cinema and for the most part, we’re not really telling the stories that have built the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into what it is today.
So why have the majority of films that have fallen under the banner of Mormon Cinema been about missionaries? Perhaps we’re trying too hard to attempt to bear our testimonies in film. Perhaps we’re just trying to find a way to validate our own personal experiences. Film is a costly and ineffective medium to do such. Some Gay and Lesbian filmmakers attempt to do the same thing with film, and it seems to be less effective with them as well. It is as if getting our own stories into film will validate who we are. It won’t. Some times we see filmmakers grappling with personal issues that are unresolved in there own lives. Again, filmmaking is a costly and ineffective way to do that.
However, the greatest flaw in these approaches to filmmaking is that they strip out the very heart and soul of a movie: storytelling. It is for this reason that I have felt to shy away from personal stories, especially in film, unless I can look back on the experience with a degree of perspective and gratitude.