ST. GEORGE -- Utah's least-heralded but most-ambitious film event, the Eclipse Film Festival in St. George, returns this weekend for its fifth year.
The festival focuses on independently made films, including shorts, animated films and documentaries, most by directors from Utah and other Western states.
New this year is a feature film competition, which includes five movies, among them the locally produced features "The Best Two Years" and "Saints and Soldiers." According to organizer David Chase, the primary goal of the festival is to give exposure to filmmakers who wouldn't otherwise receive it, as well as to enhance the broad spectrum of arts in southern Utah.
Festival selections will be screened tonight and Saturday in the Pioneer Opera House, 200 N. Main, and at The Movies multiplex, 214 N. 1000 East. For information on ticket availability and screening times, go to the festival Web site, www.eclipsefilmfest.com.
The soon to be released "Saints and Soldiers" is just one of several new movies in what has become a burgeoning industry in the Intermountain West.
In less than four years, films produced by, directed by, written by and starring Latter-day Saints have exploded onto the scene.
The phenomenon goes on, starting with a film that, even before its release, has achieved a remarkable popularity, reaching beyond Utah and the Mormon culture.
Carole Mikita has this special report...
...Coming soon to a theatre near you, "The Best Two Years", based on the real-life experiences of Mormon missionaries in Holland.
Movie Clip/"The Best Two Years": "I almost placed my first Book of Mormon!" "You're kidding me." "No!" "That's great! Were you scared?" "Yeah, a little, but he was an American and we was both speaking English." "Really?" "Yeah." "That's impressive."...
..."The Home Teachers", "Pride and Prejudice" and "Best Two Years" and "Saints and Soldiers" all open in either January or February followed by others later in the year.
...Each comedian in the showcase has their own style of humor, and some are more comfortable on stage than others.
Take comedian Dave Nibley for example. Even though his stand-up comic experience has only been in Utah, he knows how to capture an audience like a professional.
During his 10 minutes on stage, he had control of his material the entire time. He made smooth transitions, he never stuttered, and he made it appear as if he was stating his jokes for the first time.
Nibley will be seen in the upcoming film "The Best Two Years," due in theaters in February 2004. The other comedians include Jeff Birk and Michael Birkeland, both of which will appear in "The Home Teachers." Both Adam Johnson and Shawn Rapier come out of California and travel the country performing their material...
The next film in the fast-growing group of Mormon movies premiers tonight.
The script for 'The Best Two Years' began as a play back in the '80's. The storyline based on the experiences of a Latter-day Saint missionary in Holland is sometime maddening, sometimes hilarious. It follows the adventures, or sometimes misadventures, of four Americans in Holland
Dave Nibley, 'The Best Two Years': "These are four guys who happen to be Mormon missionaries, but the story doesn't hinge on that fact. The story hinges on their relationships, the way they interact with one another."
These films are already having a desired effect for some of these actors; a couple in this film already have the Hollywood connection. K.C. Clyde has lived and worked in Los Angeles for three years now.
K.C. Clyde, 'The Best Two Years': "If you tell a good story, that's going to stand out, regardless if it's a Mormon film or a catholic film, or something of another religious aspect. And that's what we have, and the more we do that in the LDS market, I think the better it is for everybody."
Kirby Heyborne has had starring roles in nearly half a dozen so far; he calls this the third wave in this genre.
Kirby Heyborne, 'The Best Two Years': "I think you're gonna see that Mormon cinema does have the staying power. It's gonna be around now because they're getting better. If they would have stayed the same and not improved, it would have fizzled out."
'The Best Two Years' premiers tonight in St. George, Wednesday night at Jordan Commons and Friday throughout the state.