Feature Films by LDS/Mormon Filmmakers and Actors
Weekend Box Office Report (U.S. Domestic Box Office Gross)

Weekend of October 8, 2004

[If table lines up improperly, use mono-spaced font, i.e. Courier]

Natl Film Title                Weekend Gross % B.O. Theatrs
Rank LDS/Mormon Filmmaker/Star   Total Gross Change  $/Thtr   Days
--- ---------------------------  ----------- ------ -------   ----
12  Napoleon Dynamite              1,056,903  -24%     715    122
    Jared Hess (writer/director)  39,092,405        $1,478
    Jerusha Hess
      (writer/costume designer)
    Jon Heder (1st billed star)
    Aaron Ruell (3rd billed star)
    Jeremy Coon (producer/editor)
    Sean Covel (producer)
    Chris Wyatt (producer)
    Munn Powell (cinematographer)
    Cory Lorenzen
      (production designer)
    Curt Jensen (art director)
    Tim Skousen, Brian Petersen
      (assistant directors)

21  Collateral                       423,450  -40%     526     66
    Bryan H. Carroll*            100,003,492          $805
      (assoc. producer/
      2nd unit director)

35  The Notebook                      99,261  -38%     170    108
    Ryan Gosling                  80,496,140          $584
      (1st billed star)

53  Baptists at Our Barbecue (NEW)    29,184   n/a      13      3
    Christian Vuissa                  29,184        $2,245
    Matt Smith (producer)
    Robert Farrell Smith
    Brandon Christensen (cinematographer)
    Actors: Dan Merkley, Heather Beers,
      Frank Gerrish, Jan Broberg Felt,
      Duane Stephens, Steve Anderson

58  Saints and Soldiers               24,683  +99%      17     66
    Ryan Little                      806,648        $1,452
    Adam Abel (producer)
    Brian Brough
     (assoc. producer/produc. manager)
    Wynn Hougaard (editor)
    J Bateman (composer)
    Matt Whitaker (screenwriter)
    Jennifer Buster (casting)
    Actors: Corbin Allred, Larry Bagby III,
      Kirby Heyborne, Lincoln Hoppe,
      Curt Dousett, Ben Gourley,
      Ethan Vincent, etc.

77  Mean Creek                        11,852   -8%      24     52
    LDS lead character               564,610          $494

84  Riding Giants (documentary)        8,255  -19%      18     94
    Jeff Clark                     2,216,249          $459
      (featured LDS surfer)

88  Benji: Off the Leash!              6,021   +5%      16     52
    Actors: Nick Whitaker,         3,756,786          $376
      Chris Kendrick, Duane Stephens,
      Neal Barth, Christy Summerhays,
      Lincoln Hoppe, Scott Wilkinson

94  The Best Two Years                 2,532  -59%       2    234
    Scott S. Anderson              1,160,390        $1,266
    Michael Flynn (producer)
    Fred C. Danneman (executive producer)
    Gordon Lonsdale (cinematographer)
    Wynn Hougaard (editor)
    Michael McLean (songwriter, music supervisor)
    Dave Sapp
      (line producer/1st A.D./unit production manager)
    Darin Anderson (production manager)
    Michael L. McDonough (sound editor)
    Rebecca Nibley (costume designer)
    Actors: K.C. Clyde, Kirby Heyborne,
      David Nibley, Cameron Hopkin,
      Scott Christopher, Michael Flynn

95  The Young Black Stallion           2,180   n/a       1    290
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   6,466,083          $895

96  Suspect Zero                       1,892  -56%      10     45
    Aaron Eckhart                  8,684,489          $189
      (1st billed star)

102 China: The Panda Adventure           721   -0%       1   1172
    Reed Smoot (cinematographer)   3,864,835          $721

"BAPTISTS AT OUR BARBECUE" OPENS TODAY - "Baptists at Our Barbecue", the long-awaited first feature film from award-winning director Christian Vuissa (one of the acclaimed Four Horsemen of the Un-Apocalypse of LDS Cinema), finally hit theaters in Utah today, October 8th. Expectations are high for the film, as Vuissa has already proven to be a talented filmmaker with his dramatic direct-to-video shorts "Roots & Wings," which won the AML award for film and "Unfolding". We've been granted some early peeks at the film, and it is a well-told, light-hearted story. You'll leave the theater feeling good about yourself and about life in general.

EARLY CRITICAL RESPONSE TO "BAPTISTS" IS MIXED - Most local reviewers seem to feel that the film represents quality filmmaking and storytelling, giving a more positive response to Vuissa's direction than they have to LDS Cinema films in the past. But they also express a wish for the film to be funnier. Here are links to each of the local reviews:

Salt Lake Tribune (Sean Means): 2 stars out of 4 (
Deseret Morning News (Jeff Vice): 2 stars out of 4 (,1249,595096706,00.html)
Eric Snider (former Utah County Daily Herald reviewer): B-minus (
Ogden Standard-Examiner (Steve Salles): 2 stars out of 4
Salt Lake City Weekly (Scott Renshaw): 1.5 stars out of 4 ( visitors:

In terms of local critical response, "Baptists at Our Barbecue" came in at #11 out of a total of 16 LDS Cinema movies that have been reviewed and graded by the Salt Lake Tribune (Jeff Means), Deseret News (Jeff Vice), Ogden Standard-Examiner (Steve Salles), Salt Lake City Weekly (Scott Renshaw) and Eric D. Snider (formerly of the Utah County Daily Herald). "Baptists at Our Barbecue" received a higher average grade than The Singles Ward (2002), Book of Mormon Vol. 1 (2003), The Work and the Story (2003), The Home Teachers (2004), and Day of Defense (2003).

Title (Year)                    SLT DN  OSE ES SLW Avg.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Saints and Soldiers (2004)       3.5 3   3.5 A- 3   84
The Best Two Years (2004)        3   3   3   B  2.5 73
God's Army (2000)                2.5 3   2.5 B+     71
Brigham City  (2001)             3   2.5 2.5 B      69
Out of Step (2002)               3   2.5 2   B  2.5 66
Pride and Prejudice (2003)       2.5 2.5 3   C+ 2.5 65
Other Side of Heaven (2001)      2.5 2.5 2.5 C+     62
The R.M. (2003)                  2   2   2.5 B- 2   56
Jack Weyland's Charly (2002)     2   2   2.5 B- 2   56
Legend of Johnny Lingo (2003)    2.5 2   2   C  2.5 55
Handcart (2002)                  2.5 2.5 2   C- 2   54
Baptists at Our Barbecue (2004)  2   2   2   B- 1.5 51
The Singles Ward (2002)          1   2   2.5 C- 2   46
Book of Mormon Vol. 1 (2003)     1.5 2   2   C- 1.5 44
The Work and the Story (2003)    2   2   1.5 D- 2.5 44
The Home Teachers (2004)         2   1.5 1.5 C- 1.5 41
Day of Defense (2003)            1   1   1   F  1   20

Complete table with details:

OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT "BAPTISTS" - Here are some other articles about the production of "Baptists at Our Barbecue":

KSL Television report (Carole Mikita) -
Deseret Morning News: Interview with director Christian Vuissa (,1249,595096699,00.html)

ALERT: PRODUCTION MANAGER, CAST MEMBERS, EXTRAS NEEDED FOR LDS FILMMAKER'S SLC SHOOT THIS SATURDAY - "Quitters", a new short film by Tucker T Dansie, about a guy whose entire day is ruined by the poor elasticity of his socks, is being shot this Saturday October 16th in Salt Lake City. The film, which stars Levi Larsen (The Restoration, Unfolding) and Lisa Higbee (The Singles Ward) will be a fun, lighthearted, laidback shoot and this is your chance to be involved!

We are looking for males and females, ages 20-30, that are interested in coming and spending no more then 4 hours on set as extra's on Saturday in an "office" setting. If you are interested, please contact Tucker Dansie at for details and to be added to the list and to be put in a group.

Also, we have 1 part still open for a male 30-45 years old. The part is of the "Project Manager" and requires a scene of fast, technical dialogue. There are 2 other smaller, simplier scenes in which the PM appears also, but this main scene is essential to the story and we really need someone who can step up to the plate. If you are interested, please contact Tucker Dansie at and we can setup an audition. We are trying to make this happen quickly, but the PM will need to be available on Saturday at 1:00 PM for roughly 4 hours.

In the meantime, please visit our website at for more information and to read the script which has just been posted, see he link under the news section!

Tucker Dansie

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, STAR OF LDS MOVIE "SOMEWHERE IN TIME", DIES - Christopher Reeve has passed away. The actor is best known for starring in the title role in four "Superman" movies, two of which were pretty good.

After "Superman," Reeve's best known and best loved film is probably "Somewhere in Time," in which he plays a contemporary who so totally falls in love with the image of a Mormon actress that he travels backwards in time to be with her.

Richard Matheson wrote the screenplay for "Somewhere in Time", faithfully adapting his own novel "Bid Time Return." In "Somewhere in Time" actress Jane Seymour stars as "Elise McKenna", the prominent stage actress who was one of the nation's most beloved entertainers around the turn of the century (1900). The "Elise McKenna" of the novel is nominally a fictional character, but she was actually based directly on Mormon actress Maude Adams, a Utah native whose mother, a Latter-day Saint, was a leading player in Brigham Young's Deseret Stock Company, which performed at the old Salt Lake Theatre. Adams' father was a Presbyterian businessman. Matheson made no attempt to disguise the source of his character. There is an entire chapter in "Bid Time Return" which is listed almost sentence for sentence, with minimal changes, from a biography about Adams.

The LDS religious background of the Elise McKenna/Maude Adams character is not overtly mentioned in "Somewhere in Time." The character is not necessarily a Latter-day Saint in the movie, but she was based on a real-life Latter-day Saint.


BAPTISTS AT OUR BARBECUE OPENING WEEKEND - "Baptists at Our Barbecue" opened this past weekend, grossing $29,184, the 12th biggest opening weekend for an LDS Cinema film. Playing in 13 theaters, the film had a per-screen average of $2,245, roughly the same average as "The Home Teachers" and "Pride and Prejudice" had in their respective first weekends.

"BAPTISTS AT OUR BARBECUE" WINS TOP AWARD IN HOLLYWOOD - Nominated for Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Feature Film, "Baptists at Our Barbecue" was the film to look out for at the 7th Annual ARPA International Film Festival. At a red carpet Gala Awards Banquet on Sunday, October 10, at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, "Baptists at Our Barbecue" won the top awards for Best Feature Film and Best Screenplay.

Dean Cain (who starred as "Superman" in the TV series "Lois & Clark") presented the awards to Christian Vuissa, director, co-writer and co-producer of "Baptists at Our Barbecue." The awards also go to Robert Farrell Smith and Matthew Smith, who co-wrote and co-produced the film with Vuissa.

"This award means a lot to me. It's great that a comedy can win a festival that is dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding. I think the judges really felt what's at the heart of our story," said Vuissa after the ceremony. "It's even more rewarding considering that the judges based their vote on an earlier rough cut of the film."

Among the five judges were Carol Mechanic, Senior Vice President of Programming at Showtime Networks, and Alan Cassidy, producer of "Magnum P.I.," "The Incredible Hulk" and "The A-Team."

The Arpa International Film Festival (AIFF) is emerging as one of the most dynamic and, in a world increasingly dependent upon cultural understanding, perhaps the most important niche festivals of our time.

The Arpa International Film Festival is dedicated to cultivating cultural understanding and global empathy, creating a dynamic forum for international cinema with a special focus on the work of filmmakers who explore the issues of Diaspora, exile, and multi-culturalism. AIFF also celebrates the ideals of independent thought, artistic vision, cultural diversity and social understanding.

"Baptists at Our Barbecue" just recently received top awards at two other film festivals, winning Best of Festival at both the Hope and Dreams Film Festival in New Jersey and the Fiery Film Festival in New Mexico. It also won "Best Comedy" at the Fiery Film Festival. It will be screened in the upcoming weeks as an official selection at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the New Hampshire Film Expo, and the Marco Island International Film Festival.

Awards to date:
WINNER BEST PICTURE - Hope and Dreams Film Festival
WINNER BEST PICTURE - Fiery Film Festival
WINNER BEST PICTURE - Arpa International Film Festival
WINNER BEST COMEDY - Fiery Film Festival
WINNER BEST SCREENPLAY - Arpa International Film Festival


VUISSA NOW ON TOP 20 LDS DIRECTORS LIST - Christian Vuissa, whose new film "Baptists at Our Barbecue" debuted in Utah theaters last weekend, has broken into top 20 LDS directors list.

Top Latter-day Saint Film Directors
(who are currently directing)

Ranked by Gross Box Office $

1. Kieth Merrill
2. Don Bluth
3. Richard Rich
4. Neil LaBute
5. Bruce Neibaur
6. Perry Andelin Blake
7. Jared Hess
8. Mitch Davis
9. Richard Dutcher
10. Kurt Hale
11. Steven Ramirez
12. Gary Rogers
13. Scott S. Anderson
14. Ryan Little
15. Adam Thomas Anderegg
16. Blair Treu
17. Andrew Black
18. Sterling Van Wagenen
19. Kels Goodman
20. Christian Vuissa
21. Nathan Smith Jones

* Based on total career North American box office gross.

BRANDON CHRISTENSEN, T.C. CHRISTENSEN AMONG TOP LDS CINEMATOGRAPHERS - Brandon Christensen is the director of photography for Christian Vuissa's award-winning short film "Roots & Wings" and for his new theatrically released feature film "Baptists at Our Barbecue."

D.P.               Career box office  # movies counted
Reed Smoot              $431,331,228     14
Charles Lang            $232,252,243     17
George Stapleford        $88,770,000      2
Munn Powell              $39,092,405      1
Brian Capener             $6,719,000      1
Ryan Little               $2,687,592      4
Gordon C. Lonsdale        $1,160,390      1
Bengt Jan Jonsson           $814,666      1
Brian Sullivan              $405,182      1
Travis Cline                $372,752      1
Kels Goodman                 $98,666      1
Michael Worthen              $80,000      1
Brandon Christensen          $29,184      1

Interestingly enough, one of the truly most accomplished Latter-day Saint cinematographers is T.C. Christensen, but box office figures are not available for any of his IMAX films that have been screened theatrically: Texas: The Big Picture; Witness; Olympic Glory; The Secret of San Francisco; Valencia, Spain: Passion for Life; Ozarks: Legacy & Legend. If we had ticket sales figures for these films, Bro. Christensen would probably be among the top names on this list. Bro. Christensen has completed two films that will soon put him on this chart, however: "Pillar of Light: The Work and the Glory" (based on the historical romance novel by Elder Gerald Lund) will open the day after Thanksgiving, and the controversial pinewood derby comedy "Down and Derby" (directed by Eric Hendershot, starring Pat Morita) is finished and is being shopped to theatrical distributors.

LDS CINEMA OPENING WEEKENDS COMPARISON - Here is how various LDS cinema films have fared in their opening weekend.

Total Gross First Weekend:

1. The R.M. - 130,352 (15 theaters)
2. Saints and Soldiers - 129,056 (26 theaters)
3. The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey - $114,573 (29 theaters)
4. Brigham City - $103,629 (51 theaters)
5. The Best Two Years - $92,436 (22 theaters)
6. God's Army - $88,584 (3 theaters)
7. Charly - $56,900 (36 theaters)
8. The Other Side of Heaven - $55,765 (2 theaters)
9. The Home Teachers - $47,494 (20 theaters)
10. The Singles Ward - $46,649 (11 theaters)
11. Pride and Prejudice - $38,329 (18 theaters)
12. Baptists at Our Barbecue - $29,184 (13 theaters)
13. Handcart - $20,000 (18 theaters)
14. The Work and the Story - $2,192 (5 theaters)

Per Theater Gross First Weekend:

1. God's Army - $29,528 (Current total gross rank #2)
2. The Other Side of Heaven - $27,883 (Current total gross rank #1)
3. The R.M. - $8,690 (Current total gross rank #6)
4. Saints and Soldiers - $4,964 (Current total gross rank #9 and climbing - still in theaters)
5. The Singles Ward - $4,241 (Current total gross rank #4)
6. The Best Two Years - $4,202 (Current total gross rank #5 - still in theaters)
7. The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey - $3,951 (Current total gross rank #3)
8. The Home Teachers - $2,375
9. Baptists at Our Barbecue - $2,245
10. Pride and Prejudice - $2,129

MORAL OF THE STORY: BUILD UP HYPE BEFORE RELEASING/MAKE YOUR FILM A "MUST-SEE" - People are going to look at the box office performance for "Baptists at Our Barbecue" this weekend and they're going to say that the market for LDS Cinema is saturated. They're going to say it can only support a certain number of films and we've reached that point. They're going to say people are saving their entertainment dollars to see next month's Thanksgiving-time release "The Work and the Glory." They're going to say it's the poor state of the economy in Utah. They're going to blame it on timing, since "Baptists" comes out at a time when "Saints and Soldiers" has just taken the state by storm and the billboards are already appearing preparing audiences for the much more anticipated release of "The Work and the Glory." They're going to claim general authority Gerald Lund trumps former LDS bookstore owner Robert Farrell Smith (despite the familiar last name). There will even be some who say "Baptists" just isn't a good film and that's the problem. No one will blame the music (nor should they - although I haven't heard the music myself yet).

I plan to debunk some of those myths. But first, plain and simple, no one was talking about, waiting for, or eager to see this film when it came out. I realize that this is just an opening weekend total. There's a long way to go. But only bringing in $2,245 per theater is not the way to build up momentum toward a successful theatrical run. How important is the first weekend of a film's release? Check out the tables above - specifically the "per theater" table. Between #7 and #8 on the table, there is a large drop-off in per theater average for an opening weekend. Significantly, 6 of the 7 top performers for opening weekend per theater box office are also the top 6 grossing films among LDS cinema films. The seventh is "Saints and Soldiers" which is still early in its theatrical run and is currently projected to gross over $1.3 million, which would place it 4th and make it an even 7-for-7. On the average, LDS Cinema films take in just under 10% of their total box office gross in the first weekend. By the seventh weekend, they've typically taken in half of their final total. The highest grossing films simply do well, especially on a per-theater basis, right out of the chute.

What about word of mouth? Won't it take time for a film to gain a following? Yes, but it will also take people SEEING the film before they will talk about it to other people. Why per theater instead of total gross? Because THAT'S the number that theater owners care about. That's the number that represents how long the film will stay in theaters it's already in so that the word of mouth can bring in more of an audience. That's the number theater owners approached about showing the film in the future will look at to decide whether they want to carry the film in their theater. What can they expect to take in if they show the film in their theater? With independent film, it's all about real estate - location, location, location! And if you don't have a good per-theater number, you are severely handicapped for future venues.

This is still based on a very small sample, but it appears that in order for an LDS Cinema film to succeed and get more theatrical venues, it typically needs to average at least $4,000 per theater per week early in its theatrical run. Its first week, it needs to take in over $6,000 per theater. If a film isn't even halfway there after the first weekend (a week begins on Friday and ends on Thursday), it doesn't bode well for that film's future.

Take "Out of Step" as a classic example. Word of mouth for that film was great. People really liked it and a lot of people eventually heard about it. The problem: By the time they went to the theaters to see the film, it just wasn't there. Oh well. A lot of people caught it on DVD. Unfortunately, independent films don't stick around waiting for people to eventually hear about them. Either people go and see them from day one, or theater owners just stop showing them.

Now, let's get rid of some of those myths. First of all, the market for LDS Cinema is not saturated. I personally consider that a ridiculous idea born of the self-destructive scarcity mentality I see plaguing the Latter-day Saint film community (which is a subject I've breached before). Oh, and in case you didn't notice, I feel kind of strongly about this. "Baptists at Our Barbecue" is an entirely different kind of film from either "Saints and Soldiers" or "The Work and the Glory." "Saints and Soldiers" came out two months ago. "The Work and the Glory" is a month and a half away. Those films did not competitively impact the box office performance of "Baptists" significantly. No one sat down last Friday and said, "No, I'll pass on 'Baptists' because I saw 'Saints and Soldiers' two months ago." Or, "Baptists? I don't know... I'd rather see 'The Work and the Glory.'" Some will still blame a competitively timed news report on Channel 5 about "The Work and the Glory" for stealing "Baptists'" opening weekend thunder, but entertainment decisions last weekend were based on what was available to do last weekend, not what was coming at the end of November. People either chose to see "Baptists" or to do something else. When two LDS Cinema films release the same weekend (or even in consecutive weeks), then we'll start talking about saturation of the market.

The economy? Okay, the economy can have an impact, but on the other hand, some of Hollywood's best times have come when times are hard and people want to forget their troubles. Timing? See the previous paragraph. Lund vs. Smith? Give me a break. It's about the story, not the writer.

Is it because "Baptists" isn't a good film? How in the world would people know? No one had seen it. True, the reviews for "Baptists" were not as glowing as the ones for say "Saints and Soldiers," but bad reviews didn't stop "The Singles Ward" or "The Book of Mormon Movie" from performing well. And actually, the reviews for "Baptists" were not necessarily negative ones. I'd characterize them as "luke-warm" which as far as some LDS Cinema films go, might as well be raves. Plus, "Baptists" has begun to make an impressive run of awards on the film festival circuit, so SOMEBODY seems to like it. I HAVE seen the film, albeit a version that did not have all the sound effects and music. (Disclosure time: I was slated to do the music for the film, and then things didn't work out at the last minute and I didn't end up doing it.) I can tell you, this is a pretty good film. That was to be expected. Christian Vuissa is a talented, quality director. It won't have you rolling in the aisles - it's not that kind of comedy. But it's a cute film, a well-made film. I think the people that saw it probably left having had some laughs and an enjoyable time. They certainly didn't run home and tell all their neighbors it's the worst film they've ever seen. Still, after its opening weekend, predictions for Baptist's final gross total are coming in at just under $400,000 - assuming its theatrical run lasts long enough to even reach that point.

So what did all of these top seven films have going for them that Baptists (and some of the other less successful films) lacked? I can only think of one common denominator: the audience was prepared - well in advance - for the release of each of these films. There was a "buzz," an eagerness to see each film, waiting for the film to hit theaters. People were talking about many of these films before the billboards and television ads appeared. As much as we at like to remind our readers that "it's only a film," each of these films had a "must see" atmosphere surrounding them BEFORE their release. In other words, word of mouth was ALREADY working, before the films ever hit the theaters.

How did they accomplish this? Let's take it on a case-by-case basis. "God's Army" was the first of its kind. Being the first goes a long way toward creating a buzz, because it makes people curious. The same could be said for "The Singles Ward" - the first LDS Cinema comedy. Latter-day Saints love comedy, especially if they can trust it to not have all kinds of off-color jokes and sexual innuendo. Attaching the Hale name to it (Kurt Hale, director - HALEstorm Entertainment, etc.) couldn't hurt with the reputation the Hale family has had for years with regard to family entertainment in Utah. "The Other Side of Heaven" not only was about the amazing missionary experiences of a general authority, it boasted a large budget (reportedly $7 million), an Academy Award-winning producer who had worked with Steven Spielberg, and one of its stars had just appeared in a hit Disney-released, family-friendly movie. Don't underestimate the importance of that large budget (by LDS Cinema standards) in generating a buzz, by the way. It gave "The Other Side of Heaven" a reason to be considered a first - the first "big budget" LDS-themed film. Why else would audiences need to know a film's budget anyway? Letting them know that a lot of money was being spent to make the film generated an expectation that the film would be good - whether that is an appropriate conclusion or not.

"The R.M." was riding on the wave of popularity generated by "The Singles Ward" which might be said to have achieved cult status among young college age Latter-day Saints who watched it multiple times in dollar theaters. "By the guys who made The Singles Ward" went a long way in causing a buzz, because audiences were hoping for a repeat performance. "The Book of Mormon Movie?" Well, that one had decades of "buzz" built up for it simply because it was "The Book of Mormon Movie" and everyone and their dog had heard someone mention how they thought The Book of Mormon would make an amazing movie. They said this, by the way, regardless of how difficult it really has proven to make it or even a part of it into a movie. The average member doesn't care about the technicalities and challenges of adapting scripture for film any more than the average theatergoer didn't care how difficult and monumental a task it would be to make "The Lord of the Rings" into a functional film, leading me to believe that the person who finally gets it right, really and truly right, ought to be just as much a shoo-in for an Academy Award as Peter Jackson was. Regardless, Gary Rogers was the first (there's that word again) to take on this monumental task and actually show up with an actual film in the can that people would spend money to see. (We're ignoring, of course, church productions here, which have an entirely different purpose, and people don't have to pay money to see them.) The months leading up to its release were FILLED with discussion. There was no way that film wasn't going to have a good opening weekend.

All of these films had a built-in "must see" quality. Such was NOT the case for "The Best Two Years" or "Saints and Soldiers." Neither had a huge budget or a recognizable star (except maybe LDS Cinema mega-star Kirby Heyborne). LDS-themed films had stopped being the novelty that they were for the earlier films. What was it about each of these films that made them successful in their first weekend? They still had a "buzz," but that buzz had to be developed in a different way. Both of these films were actually completed long before their actual theatrical release (except perhaps some minor tweaking). "Saints and Soldiers" hit the festival circuit and racked up an impressive record of awards. "The Best Two Years" was shown at about every Latter-day Saint-related convention that happened for about six months. In both cases, the films, themselves, had to generate that interest and the only way to do that was to let people see the films and start telling their neighbors - before they were ever released. When "Saints and Soldiers" was slapped by an R-rating, there were lots of people who had SEEN the film who said, "Whoa, this isn't right" and suddenly a potential negative turned into positive publicity. By the time each of these films was released, most members of the church, at least in Utah, had heard someone talking about how good these films were, and lots of people were waiting for their chance to get a peek.

I can hear someone saying it now: "Wait a minute, Thomas. You don't understand the pressure the independent filmmaker has to get his film into theaters as quickly as possible. We have investors who want their money back. We can't afford to delay releasing a film for six months while it 'builds up a buzz.'" My response: Does it matter to your investor that waiting six months longer could make a difference of more than $500,000 in box office gross with comparable increases in video and DVD sales? If he wants his money back with a healthy return, he'd BETTER be willing to wait that extra six months. Of course, another key is that the people that see it during that six months have to like it. If the film just doesn't work for its target audience, no amount of pre-release screenings will build up enough anticipation to bring in audiences when it finally hits theaters.

But what about building up a film before it's finished? Sure, you need to do that. That will be especially effective if there is something about your film (a large budget, a recognizable star, based on a book of scripture everyone in the target audience has read) that naturally gives it that "must see" appeal. But the fact remains that only so many films can be the "first" at what they do. And, by the way, there are very few books in the LDS market that can guarantee a lot of interest - if "Charly" couldn't do it, I'd have to say that's limited to scripture. LDS Cinema films with $400,000 budgets and a story that MOST of the people in the target audience are unfamiliar with are becoming commonplace now, and there's only so much interest you can generate with billboards, in-theater posters or displays and even press releases with stills from the movie and interviews with the actors. At some point, you've got to have people talking to their friends about the film. And for a lot of projects, that will only happen after they've actually seen it and liked it.

LDS-RUN GLORIA FILM FESTIVAL THIS WEEK IN SLC - This is the Gloria Film Festival's third year. It is an international film festival open to films from people of all backgrounds. But the films are ethical in their content, and "family-friendly." Many of the competing films were made by Latter-day Saint filmmakers. The festival was founded and is still run by African-American Latter-day Saint filmmaker Wayne L. Lee. See,1249,595097355,00.html
"THE BEST TWO YEARS" WILL NOT CATCH "THE SINGLES WARD" - But YOU can catch "The Best Two Years" ... on DVD. B2Y is now available on video and DVD. This probably means that its theatrical run will probably be over soon, although it was still playing on two screens this weekend. Up until this weekend, there was still a possibility that B2Y would mount enough support at the end of its run to catch "The Singles Ward" and grab the #4 spot among LDS Cinema films. However, it is still about $90,000 short of "The Single's Ward's" final total of $1,250,798 and it appears likely B2Y will finish up at #5, the position it grabbed three weeks ago when it passed "The R.M.'s" total gross - $1,111,615. "The Best Two Years" currently has grossed $1,160,390.
UTAH/LDS FILMMAKERS RELEASE NEW DVD ABOUT REAL FACE OF PATRIOTISM AMONG U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ - Here is the write-up for a brand new DVD from Latter-day Saint filmmakers, from the order page at LDS Video Store:

Proceeds from the sale of this DVD will go to the restoration of the Mt. Pleasant Veterans Memorial.

Produced by the Central Utah Filmmakers Association.
Directed by Joseph L. Puente
Produced by Emilee Blackham
Associate Producer: Dianne Blackham

Music by James Oneil Miner, Janice Kapp Perry, Sen. Orrin Hatch, The Osmonds Second Generation, Irving Berlin and Lee Greenwood.

This documentary takes a look at American patriotism from the perspective of numerous real citizens in central Utah (particularly Mt. Pleasant) and servicemen from the area.

This is a relatively simple, straightforward film, but its power comes from the profound goodness of the people interviewed and the soldiers they support. Nearly all of the people interviewed are Latter-day Saints, and many of them mention their beliefs and faith in their comments. But this documentary is not at all about specifically LDS topics, and anybody can appreciate it.

I have to admit that as a film, it seems to start a little slow, but it became much more interesting to me as it went along. The seemingly ordinary nature of the citizens commenting about patriotism and their support for U.S. servicemen and servicewomen makes it easier to relate to these soldiers once their stories are told in more detail.

After seeing comments by friends and family members of many U.S. soldiers, a number of actual U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, the rest of the Middle East and elsewhere are interviewed.

The most interesting parts of the film are the matter-of-fact retellings of these soldiers' stories. A number of the stories include some nicely filmed recreation scenes of some of the events described. These are stories of courage, faith, loyalty and heroism. But we also see in them humanity, human weaknesses and frailty.

Many of the people interviewed are currently separated from their loved ones. Some people have suffered the loss of loved ones killed in action. But these are strong, composed people, and the film is in no way melodramatic or exploitative.

A Portrait of Patriotism is certainly a patriotic film, but it also offers an honest, unvarnished look at real-life soldiers and the people from back home who are supporting them. You will recognize and relate to these people, in a way that you wouldn't if you simply watched yet another Hollywood attempt to show American soldiers through all its filters, script doctors and mindsets.

The documentary ends with a wonderful montage showing the people of this community showing their support with a parade for returning troops, mixed with scenes from the battlefront, all set to a truly wonderful song "Put Your Hand Over Your Heart," written by Janice Kapp Perry and Senator Orrin Hatch, performed by The Osmonds Second Generation. The documentary's music also includes "God Bless the USA" by Lee Greenwood, "God Bless America" by Irving Berling, "What a Wonderful World" by George David Weiss and Bob Theile, "Danny Boy" by Frederick Edward Weatherly.

This is not necessarily a "great" film in a purely artistic sense. It will not win an Academy Award. It will not attract as much attention as a Michael Moore film. Few people would consider it "controversial." But A Portrait of Patriotism is heartfelt and very real.

I recommend this film to anyone interested in this topic or interested in hearing regular civilians and soldiers share some of their stories, thoughts and feelings. This is a great way to see who and what American troops are really fighting for.

Extras: In addition to the half-hour main documentary, this DVD also includes many extras, including extended interviews, slide shows and photos.

REVIEW OF LDS-MADE DOCUMENTARY FAHRENHYPE 9/11 - NOW ON SALE NATIONALLY (DEBUNKS MOORE) - This documentary is on the shelves at my local Dallas Blockbuster. I'm assuming it is widely available. mailing list subscriber offers the following comments and enthusiastic review of the new documentary "FAHRENHYPE 9/11":

With all the front page newspaper coverage of Michael Moore's controversial visit to a Utah campus I'm am pleased to tell you of something special that I came upon by accident that SHOULD BE FRONT PAGE NEWS -- a brand new DVD timed to be released the same day as Moore's sick FAHRENHEIT 9/11 -- a documentary (which is really a documentary) by filmmaker Alan Peterson with the title, FAHRENHYPE 9/11.

This is a Documentary that is intended to counter act the distorted images of Moore's outrageous work. The DVD says: "You knew it was a lie . . . Now you'll know why . . . Unraveling the truth about FAHRENHEIT 9/11 and Michael Moore" And that is exactly what it does. And it does so by letting many of the people who were misused in Moore's film speak for themselves. These people tell how they really feel and speak of how shocked and disgusted they were to see how they or their loved ones were used in the context of Moore's revisionist approach to truths.

Years ago, while serving in the US Army in Germany, a fellow worker, knowing I was a member of the LDS Church, handed me a paper back he had just finished reading by Irving Wallace, The Twenty-Seventh Wife, supposedly telling the true story of Ann Eliza's forced marriage to Brigham Young. As I read it I knew it was full of lies, but Wallace had carefully listed footnotes of his historical sources on each page. When I returned home to Salt Lake after my service I came upon Hugh Nibley's newly published work, Sounding Brass. Bro. Nibley took Wallace's work apart point by point, discussing every resource that he sighted. It was a joy to have someone so knowledgeable counter-act the out and out lies that were being offered as historical truths.

And so it is with FAHRENHYPE 9/11 -- it destroys Michael Moore's distortions and out-and-out lies one by one. When you get through seeing and hearing what Dick Morris (political consultant to Pres. Bill Clinton); Zell Miller (Democratic Senator who recently made the news by speaking out for Pres. Bush at the GOP convention); Ed Kock (former mayor of New York and life long Democrat); Ann Coulter (author of Treason and Slander); Peter King (New York Congressman and member of homeland security); Steven Emerson (terrorist investigator and author of American Jihad); plus people who appeared in Moore's film, such as the school teacher who was present when Pres. Bush received the news of the Twin Towers, the Oregon State Trooper who in Moore's film appeared to be blaming Pres. Bush for budget cuts, and most moving of all, the young soldier who lost his arms in Iraq and expresses his hurt at Moore's false use of him in his film -- if after hearing all of these (and many more) you still feel Moore's film is a courageous and noble thing -- then I have a bridge in New York that I will sell you cheap!

FAHRENHYPE 9/11 does much more then refute Michael Moore's work. When I got through watching this film I had a new confidence that the course that President George Bush has taken has been the right one for America. This is a film that I wish every American could see.

You will not be able to walk into just any video store and purchase this DVD. It is being offered exclusively from and Wal Mart at a price under $10.00. You do not have to of seen the "R" rated Moore film in order to get something out of this one!


--Hunter Hale

LDS-THEMED FEATURE FILM TO DEBUT AT SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL JANUARY 2005 (KEANU REEVES, BENJAMIN BRATT AND VINCE VAUGHN) - Mike Mills' adaptation of LDS writer Walter Kirn's LDS-themed novel Thumbsucker will debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2005. The Sundance Film Festival, held yearly in Park City, is one of the world's four most important and influential film festivals. The festival was founded by Latter-day Saint filmmaker Sterling Van Wagenen, the former dean of BYU's film school, but today the festival is associated in the minds of most Americans with Bro. Van Wagenen's former brother-in-law, Robert Redford.

At the last Sundance Film Festival (January 2004), the hottest, most talked about film was Bro. Jared Hess' "Napoleon Dynamite," which was made by an almost entirely LDS crew and largely LDS cast (including title star Jon Heder). But people worried that Latter-day Saints are taking over the festival that they founded actually have nothing to fear: The 2005 Festival will continue to be dominated primarily by grainy low-budget art films about transvestite Nazi love affairs.

"Thumbsucker": Directed by Mike Mills (who also wrote the screenplay), an adaptation of non-churchgoing Latter-day Saint Walter Kirn's novel about a boy (Lou Taylor Pucci) who sort of overcomes an oral fixation, becomes a Latter-day Saint and goes on a mission; Keanu Reeves plays the orthodonist; Tilda Swinton, Chase Offerle and Vincent D'Onofrio play other members of this family who study with the missionaries and join the Church; also stars Benjamin Bratt and Vince Vaughn; filming reportedly began July 2002; now in post-production; current plans are for this to hit the film festival circuit; film will debut at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on January 20, 2004

Elijah Wood, best known as "Frodo" in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, was long-slated to star in this movie, but the lead role was finally actually filmed with Lou Taylor Pucci instead.

This is not an "LDS Cinema" movie because the target audience to which the film will be marketed is not LDS people, but a national audience. This may be slightly more "arthouse" than typical Hollywood blockbusters, although obviously with names like Keanu Reeves, Vince Vaughn and Benjamin Bratt the intention is to have a big national theatrical release with this after attracting attention at Sundance.

As many Latter-day Saint readers are aware, Walter Kirn is one of the most critically-acclaimed Latter-day Saint authors in the United States today. He is writing about Latter-day Saint characters less frequently than he used to. He has written many LDS-themed short stories, but Thumbsucker is probably the Kirn novel that most prominently features Latter-day Saint characters. Keep in mind, however, that this isn't a "pro-LDS" novel. Justin Cobb is not your typical Latter-day Saint missionary, and the tactics used by the Elders who baptize him aren't ones that I've ever heard of. But this isn't an "anti-LDS" novel and I don't think it will be an "anti-Mormon" film any more than Hitchcock's "I Confess" is an "anti-Catholic" movie.







LDS JOKE IN NEW ALEC BALDWIN MOVIE "THE LAST SHOT" - I haven't seen it yet, but we have a report of a Latter-day Saint reference in the newly released movie "The Last Shot." Toward the end of the film, Alec Baldwin says he has an idea for a movie about two FBI guys, a good one and a bad one, and then says that the catch is that they are both Mormons. The correspondent reporting this said that the audience made up of SAG members laughed throughout the movie and laughed especially loud at that joke.

"The Last Shot" is about FBI agents who recruit a filmmaker to help make a film as part of a sting operation to catch criminals. It is actually based loosely on a true story. The FBI agents and the criminals they are attempting to collar get overly caught up in the idea of making a movie, forgetting the fact that the movie was never actually supposed to be completed and shown to anybody.

IN COURT: BRO. LARSON CLAIMS BOOK OF MORMON (NOT STAR WARS) WAS INSPIRATION FOR GALACTICA - Well, here's a blast from the distant past. Excerpt: "Larson insisted that his series was a sci-fi rewrite of the Book of Mormon, but that didn't wash with George Lucas or his lawyers, who cited 34 similarities between Star Wars and Galactica - a bit rich, considering Lucas's film was a shameless rip-off of Flash Gordon and Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. The judge had similar misgivings. Lucas's case was rejected... perhaps those with an intimate knowledge of the Book of Mormon are best qualified to make the judgment." EXCERPT FROM:
IDAHO FILM FESTIVAL FEATURES LDS MOVIE "SONS OF PROVO" AND ANTI-MORMON SCREED "BURYING THE PAST" - "Sons of Provo" was directed by Latter-day Saint actor/director Will Swenson, the "Woody Allen" of LDS filmmaking. "Burying the Past" was directed by University of Utah film instructor Brian Patrick. We are tempted to call Patrick "the Michael Moore of LDS filmmaking," except that Moore's documentaries are far more balanced and accurate than Patrick's. Patrick is a large part of the reason that the University of Utah's film program is such a joke. See article:
"SONS OF PROVO" HITTING THEATERS IN FEBRUARY 2005 - We have confirmed that "Sons of Provo", the award-winning Will Swenson/Kirby Heyborne comedy about the stupendous rise of LDS boy band "Everclean," will DEBUT IN THEATERS ON FEBRUARY 4 2005. "Sons of Provo" has been SWEEPING awards at FILM FESTIVALS across the UNITED STATES. It has won more awards than you or I will ever KNOW about.
FILM FESTIVAL IN OREM TO BE HELD IN OCTOBER - The Orem Barnes and Noble is holding their second ever Film Festival in October.
BYU STUDENTS ATTEMPT TO MAKE IT BIG ON NEXT "AMERICAN IDOL" TV SINGING COMPETITION - These students are attempting to follow in the footsteps of last season's Bro. Jon Peter Lewis and previous year's Sis. Carmen Rasmusen, as well as other Latter-day Saint singers who were featured on the TV show but did not make as far as the Final Twelve contestants. See:
SWEETHAVEN: LDS BAND (FROM "THE R.M.") HAVE ALBUM ON NEW HALESTORM LABEL - Sweethaven was featured on the soundtrack for the LDS Cinema movie "The R.M." They have a new album on Halestorm Entertainment's new label, H records. HaleStorm is best known as a feature film production company and distributor, but they have been branching out with some music CDs as well.

See the article at:



LDS/GLBT ARTIST TREVOR SOUTHEY'S SHOW IN S.F. - LDS GLBT artist Trevor Southey has been featured in a number of BYU and other PBS documentaries. He currently has a new show or lecture or something in San Francisco.

- Trevor Southey, One Man Show (1985; KTVY; d)
- From Vision to Form (1984; KTVY; d)
- Drawing the Human Figure (1983; KTVY; d)
- Two Artists (1976; KBYU; d)


LDS FILMMAKER'S ACTION COMEDY SCI-FI KUNG FU SPAGGHETTI WESTERN AVAILABLE ON DVD - Bro. Chris Cowden is a Latter-day Saint filmmaker who lives in Hawaii. His new film "Johnny Unicron" is now available on DVD.

Chris Cowden
Latter-day Saint. From Alberta, Canada. English major studying at Brigham Young University-Hawaii (BYU-H). Director, producer, co-writer and star of the hour-long film "Kevin and Jay" (2001), made by students at BYU-H. Prior to making "Kevin and Jay," Cowden made about 50 short films, most of them comedies. Ke Alaka'i, 14 Nov. 2001: "At his home in Alberta, Canada, Cowden had several of his productions broadcasted on Northern Cable Vision, a public access channel. During his senior year of high school, Cowden won a regional gold medal for TV and video production at a competition called Skills Canada. He also competed at a provincial level."


LDS TV/FILM STAR/PRODUCER MICHAEL FLYNN HAS OPTIONED LDS FICTION BOOK 'MORMONVILLE' - LDS TV/film star/producer Michael Flynn has optioned LDS fiction book 'Mormonville'

Bro. Flynn has a recurring role on "Everwood." In addition to his many other film roles, he recently played "Laban" in "The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1: The Journey", and he played the mission president in "The Best Two Years." He also was the producer of "The Best Two Years."

Mormonville is a popular LDS novel about an investigative journalist from New York City on assignment in Utah, trying to uncover the "secret" of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Is the secret ingredient simply nutmeg? Read the book and find out!

LDS COMPOSER PROPELS SHORT FILM TO OSCAR WIN - I honestly can't remember if we forwarded news about Bro. Thomas' film winning an Academy Award back when the award was actually given... Anyway, I think a lot of you may not be familiar with Bro. Chance Thomas, an active Latter-day Saint and an active composer for film, video games and other projects. We updated his filmography on the LDS composer page today:

As for this "Robota" thing that Bro. Thomas has scored... This is based on a book written by none other than celebrated Latter-day Saint hymn commentator Orson Scott Card.

Chance Thomas, composer:
Robota: Reign of Machines (2004; film trailers on
The Hobbit (2003; VG)
War of the Ring (2003; VG)
Earth and Beyond (2003; VG)
The ChubbChubbs (2002; s) - Best Animated Short Film Academy Award Winner
Warcraft III (2002; theatrical trailer)
Unreal II (2001; VG)
The Two Towers (2001; VG)
Home Front (2000; commercials)
The Fellowship of the Ring (2000; VG)
Bunny Luv (1999; VG)
Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire (1998; VG)
SWAT 2 (1997; VG)
The Realm (1996; VG)
Rigoletto (1993; V; song)

CHARLIE WOLF (THE "HOWARD STERN" OF U.K. RADIO) BECOMES A LATTER-DAY SAINT - Charlie Wolf, often called the "Howard Stern" of British radio because of his comparable popularity is apparently a Latter-day Saint convert, or at least he was. One more recent article or email post states that Wolf recently married a Jewish woman, and apparently concludes that this means Wolf is now no longer an active Latter-day Saint. Whether that is a valid conclusion, and just what Wolf's current status in the Church is, are things that I don't know. As this is a radio star and not a TV/film personality, this is probably off topic anyway.

"Even in his Jewishness Charlie is unconventional. He talks with more hand movements than Woody Allen and with a nasal twang worse than Ruby Wax. Yet while he was in Utah he became a Mormon. 'Some would say that I'm not Jewish, but I am. I don't keep Shabbat and I don't go to synagogue anymore but, funnily enough, Mormonism probably enhanced my Judaism. I'm both. Mormon is my religion but I am from the tribe of Judah.'"


MORMON/JW MOVIE REVIEWER AT NYPRESS DECRIES NEW ABORTION MOVIE "VERA DRAKE" AS DISHONEST BY IGNORING RELIGIOUS INFLUENCE BEHIND PRO-LIFE POSITION - There's a void in the middle of Leigh's drama: faith. It seems inconceivable that none of Leigh's working-class and middle-class Anglo characters would ever be shown going to church, praying, reading the Bible or having any discussions even tangentially related to God. Bear in mind I'm not coming at this from a conservative or even especially religious viewpoint. I'm staunchly pro-choice and in favor of Roe v. Wade, and while I was raised in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, I'm not a churchgoer and have no rooting interest in organized religion of any kind. But I do believe that a serious artist should not engage in a dramatic presentation of abortion - arguably the most divisive social issue of our time - while virtually ignoring a key source of that division.







MORE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ABOUT MICHAEL MOORE UVSC CONTROVERSY - Here are this week's letters:,1249,595097791,00.html

LDSFILM.COM SUBSCRIBER WEIGHS IN ON MICHAEL MOORE CONTROVERSY - I certainly hope that the school will not cave with the Michael Moore lecture. I think it will be a good experience for the students. I do not support Mr. Moore at all, but I think that being exposed to differing viewpoints is always a good thing. Maybe even more so for college age students. Do "they" feel that Michael Moore will hurt the students and convert them to his way of thinking? He doesn't have that much power, does he?



MUCH ADO ABOUT MOORE (PROVO DAILY HERALD DETAILS MICHAEL MOORE CONTROVERSY, INCL. LDS IMPLICATIONS) - Perhaps the explanation is simple: that America is plugged into a high-voltage political battle in which one candidate (Bush) is seen through Utah's conservative prism as standing for ideals of life, liberty and family, while the other (Kerry) is tagged as a liberal who is hostile to values of the historic Mormon culture in Utah.

That mindset may have been shaped by history, he said. Mormons sought refuge in the Salt Lake Valley after being repeatedly driven from their homes in the East. Over the years outsiders moved in, and non-Mormons now represent a majority there.


DETROIT FREE PRESS: MICHAEL MOORE HEADED TO LION'S DEN OF REPUBLICAN UTAH - Orem sits in a county where only 5,739 of the 153,374 registered voters are Democrats -- a minuscule 3.7 percent, according to the county clerk's office. So it's no surprise that Moore has set off a buzz in Happy Valley, so named because of the mountain basin's overwhelmingly Mormon population and its emphasis on cheerful, righteous living.







HANNITY'S TRAVEL TAB TO UVSC NEAR $50,000 - See,1249,595097892,00.html

LDSFILM.COM CONTINUES ITS RESEARCH INTO LDS REFERENCES AND CHARACTERS IN MAINSTREAM FILM - Once again, we are not necessarily RECOMMENDING people watch these movies. These pages are for research purposes. Pages added this week include:

- Shanghai Noon (2000, PG-13)
- Wonder Boys (2001, R)
- One Night at McCool's (2001, R)

DIALOGUE ON R-RATINGS CONTINUES - Subscribers continue to express their feelings about R-rated movies in a discussion originally begun by comments we passed on that were made by new apostle Elder Bednar while he was president of then Ricks College. We have observed that this dialogue has swung far afield of what Elder Bednar said, which in fact were much like comments we have heard many general authorities make over the years counseling members to avoid viewing unsuitable material. subscriber Linda Gray:
I must admit that I am uncertain as to the R ratings. Why would The Strength of the Youth pamphlet come out and say nothing of the R rating? Are we not to use our own judgment in these matters? When I called the Office of Public Affairs, they said that there was no Church policy (The Passion of the Christ) on the rating. If the R rating is STILL in effect today, why was it not mentioned in The Strength of the Youth. I can see that the SOTY pamphlet is advising our young people to be cautious in choosing ANY film? Just a thought that I have often. :)

Linda Gray

Another subscriber responded to Linda's message:

This topic has been covered in this forum before. I think the key is that there is a difference between counsel and policy. President Benson's original priesthood session address has been quoted as the original source of the counsel to avoid R-rated movies. I think the church chose not to make it policy because the ratings are not given by an inspired source. They could be accepted as guidelines. My last letter on this topic mentioned that when Saving Private Ryan came out, Elder Ballard gave an interview to the Salt Lake Tribune. When questioned about the R-rating and violent content, he expressed some thoughts on the context and use of violence making this film acceptable. At BYU, Dr. Peer suggested that George C. Scott's performance as Patton was more important than the R rating. I think that is what the Strength of Youth pamphlet is counselling us to do, to think about the issues involved in making our choices. One youth leader suggested the pamphlet be called the Strength of Members, because it is good counsel for all of us.

John Kolak

[Note of clarification: Patton, which has an absolutely wonderful film score by Thomas's former mentor Jerry Goldsmith, was rated "M" - which was the previous rating system's equivalent to a PG rating. The reason the ratings system changed the designation was because many audience members confused the M - for "mature" - rating as being an adults-only rating. The violence portrayed in the film is comparable to the violence in "Saints and Soldiers" and it is likely the film would have received a PG-13 rating had such a rating existed at the time (even though it is less violent than many PG-13 rated films today)]

Annie Edwards responds to Linda Gray:


There is no need to be uncertain. We have been commanded to NOT watch "R" rated movies, PERIOD! The Church is NOT lowering the bar with what the FSOY pamphlet now says. The previous commandment still stands, for those of us who live in countries with that rating system. However, the bar has been raised even HIGHER now. It's not enough to say "well, it's not rated 'R' so I guess I can watch it." No, now we're being counseled to not watch ANYTHING that employs sex or violence or degrading language. If you can find an "R" rated movie that has no sex, no violence and no foul or degrading language, more power to you. Heck, if you can find a PG-13 movie with NONE of those things, please let me know about it.

Please don't fool yourself into believing that there is somehow less concern about the forms of entertainment we partake of, despite what Bro. Puente may try to say. The concern is greater than ever and so is our accountability.

Annie Edwards

An subscriber sent the following note regarding a previous post about the R-rating not being mentioned in The Strength of the Youth pamphlet.

FYI- One reason for the lack of specific reference to the R rating may well be that the MPAA rating system is US-specific, and the Church is a global church. TSOY has been translated into many languages and is used throughout the world, where an "R" rating is meaningless. Not all countries even have a rating system and those that do are different from the MPAA.

In response to "R rating not used in all countries."

You don't have to go far. In Canada, ratings are done by the individual province's film boards. We do not have a national R rating, and the other ratings do not necessarily match up with the American system (MPAA). Many of our U.S. LDS expatriate members living here in Canada who I have met in local wards are pleased to "be able to" watch a film here that they "wouldn't be able to view in the U.S." (Given that it is exactly the same film, how logical is that? And is that not the perfect example to make one reflect on the scripture found in D&C 58: 26, which states, "For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.")

A perfect example of an excellent film that casts doubt on the efficacy of theatre ratings being our barometer for what we, as LDS, should or should not view is "Saints and Soldiers." I saw the film prior to its rating, so I surmise that what I viewed was the version that eventually got rated "R." Personally, I would stand behind this film even if it had not been re-edited to its current U.S. rating of PG-13. I am sure in Canada it would have received no more than a 14A rating, and possibly PG.

At any rate, I feel badly that we are all swabbling over something that is dividing, rather than uniting us. Let's just agree to disagree about ratings, and rather than continuing to dispute, reaffirm our believe in the 13th Article of Faith as a compromise.

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul: "We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

- Jeff Axson

LDS filmmaker Joseph Puente responds to Jack Brinkerhoff:

It seems appropriate that discussions with such energy should take place during the debate period of this election year. I made a comment, Jack Brinkerhoff responded, now it's my turn for rebuttal. God bless the first amendment! ;-)

I read Jack's e-mail yesterday afternoon and knew that I had to respond to it. I could have fired off a response right then and there but I was on my way home and I wanted to take some time to think about what was said, analyze the information and form a cogent response, so here goes.

First of all, I must take issue with Jack's choice to put words in my mouth. Jack said that I "have the misguided notion that art and morality are separate from religion and morality."

I checked my original e-mail, Jack, and I said no such thing. What I did say was that a person's morality cannot be gauged by their taste in art. There is room in the gospel for differences of opinion and differences in taste. These differences are not indicative of a moral failing on the part of the person whose taste or opinion differs from your own or even that of a general authority. I remember Gordon B. Hinkley speaking of the film "Chicago" after the Academy Awards. He said he had no interest in seeing it because of the content. That's fine by me. I didn't watch it because of Catherine Zeta-Jones (I'm just not a fan). I'm also pretty sure that President Hinkley doesn't have a lot of time to watch movies. But there are plenty of church members that I know who saw "Chicago" and really enjoyed it. Does this make them sinners? No.

You claimed that I said that I was "saddened by the council of a church authority."

I did not say that. I said I was saddened by the implication that a person's morality can be judged by their taste in art. This implication happened to be expressed by a general authority and is shared by a lot of people in the church. This is simply an opinion that I do not agree with, it is NOT a doctrine that I'm defiantly speaking out against.

I have to quote your last paragraph in its entirety: "One final, more personal note to Mr. Puente. To refer to members of the Church who accept at face value the teachings of the Church leaders as 'shallow and insipid' is quite unfortunate. The spirit of contention behind such comments speaks volumes."

Again, Jack, I did not say that! What I said was: "Unfortunately, a great deal of members in the Church are shallow and insipid enough to believe that one's taste is an indicator of their morality. This simply isn't so." I said nothing about taking the council of leaders at face value. What's most ironic about this is my letter was included at the end of your e-mail in its entirety and yet you still manage to misquote me. I guess it was easier to go off half cocked about what you thought I meant than to bother reading it again and perhaps thinking about it.

As for your comment about the "spirit of contention behind such comments," I'll remind you of how I started my e-mail. No one can know what is in the heart of an individual. You know nothing about me, Jack. Nothing about my spirit and what motivates me and yet you feel justified in divining what is in my heart based on a few lines in an e-mail that you can't even be bothered to read more than once. That's just making assumptions, Jack.

My mother always told me, "Never assume. It only make an ass out of U and Me."

But that's what a lot of people tend to do when it comes to the rating system. They assume it stands for something that it was never intended to. The morality or quality of a film. This simply is not so.

The ratings system is not a morality meter. It is NOT intended to tell you if a movie is good or bad. It is only there to tell you about the content of a film, not the context in which it's presented. It is also there primarily for parents so that they can have a better idea of what their children are watching or want to see. I wrote to the ratings board of the MPAA this year and requested some more information about the ratings system. Most of the information is available at their web sites and If none of you have read the information there, I recommend that you do. It's very interesting stuff. The Ratings Board was kind enough to send me some posters that are now hanging in my studio. My favorite one shows the movie ratings with simple messages for parents.

G. Take the kids.
PG. Know your kids.
PG-13. See it with your kids.
R. Think before taking your kids.
NC-17. Hire a sitter.

Then it says, "Exercise responsibility."

That last line speaks volumes to me! Because most parents aren't doing it. They just make assumptions about the ratings. They think G means "Good." PG means "Pretty Good" and R stand for "Repent if you watch this."

Jack spoke of his "personal experience working in L.A." but he's still naive enough to think that because family films are the top sellers it must mean that they're good movies. He even goes so far as to say that "Disney has proven that you can make a quality, entertaining movie without the pollutants."

Has anyone on this list actually seen some of the direct to video crap that Disney has been churning out for the last ten years? I assure you, it doesn't sell because it's good. It sells because lazy parents, who rely on their DVD players and VCRs to baby-sit and educate their kids, aren't interested in quality films, they're interested in "safe" films. They ASSUME that if it's rated G then it must be okay for their children to watch or at least keep them occupied for a couple of hours while they're out doing something other than proper parenting.

I'm not a parent myself. Not yet, anyway. But I would rather take the time to educate my kids, spend time with them and teach them to appreciate genuine works of art than bring them up believing the false notion that "Cinderella II" is a good movie.

I am very particular about what I spend my time and money to see. I do not judge a film based on its rating. Because that simply isn't a reliable gauge of its quality. I read reviews. I ask people who have seen the movies for their opinions. I don't rush into a movie theater just because the trailer was really cool. Most trailers are better than the movie anyway. Because of this method I use in watching films, I am rarely disappointed when I walk out of the theater or eject a video tape or DVD.

How can any intelligent person come to believe that something as arbitrary as a single letter in the alphabet can mean the difference between experiencing a work of art and committing a sin?

Let's throw a hypothetical situation out there for the sake of argument. A filmmaker completes a project. It is UNRATED. He shows it to some of his friends. They enjoy the film. They're moved by it on multiple levels. They walk out of the screening with tears in their eyes, eager to tell their other friends about it. Then the filmmaker presents it to the MPAA Ratings Board. It comes back with an R rating. Does that mean that all the people who watched it before the rating are retroactively sinners? Suppose the filmmaker appeals the rating and the Board decides, "We were kind of quick on our last judgment this is really more of a PG-13 movie." Are the "sinners" now forgiven because the ratings board reconsidered their earlier decision? I didn't think the ratings board had that kind of spiritual authority.

Where is the sin? Is the sin in the film? Is it in the filmmaker? Is it embedded in some way in the celluloid?

We already know that most movies aren't worth our time. But of the handful that are left, why are members so quick to label a work of art as something sinful? I had a student once who was reading the book, "Schindler's List" but refused to watch the movie because it was rated R. I was once called a sinner, on Easter Sunday, no less, because I watched "The Passion of The Christ." Both of these films are based on true stories. One is based on scripture and yet, not only are they labeled as being "sinful" or "immoral" but so are the people who watch them. Why? Because of the letter R.

Is the letter R immoral? Lots of great words start with it. Redemption. Radiant. Revelation. Repentance. Reason. Reward. Reconcile. I'll ask again, where is the sin?

Sin is in the heart of the sinner. We can't assume that because a person is watching an R- rated movie, that he or she is sinning for doing so. There are plenty of dirty old men out there who are watching "The Lizzie McGuire Movie" for all the wrong reasons. Does that make the movie sinful? No. The sin is in the heart of the individual.

I'd like to point out a few facts about the ratings board to our LDS readers. First of all, the ratings board does not meet in the Church office building in Salt Lake City. Nor do they meet in a temple, stake center, synagogue or any other kind of religious facility. The ratings board is NOT a religious organization or entity in any way shape or form. Its members are not composed of clergy or religious leaders of any faith. The only absolute requirement to be on the board is that a potential member be a parent.

Consider what you are doing when you tell yourself, "I won't watch R-rated movies because it's immoral." You are allowing your morality to be DICTATED to you by a SECULAR organization. Instead of heading the spirit of God, you are heading the opinions of fallible human beings who aren't even concerned about the morality of the films they watch. They are only concerned about the content.

This is where a lot of members come out and say, "But the prophet said!" And when I ask them, "Which prophet said it?" Most of the time, they can't remember. (It was Ezra Taft Benson and it was NOT spoken from the podium at General Conference.) I've even heard a member say, "SOME prophet said," just to cover all the bases.

Prophets say lots of things. Prophets are also entitled to their opinions. But we need to remember something else. Opinions are not doctrine and council is not commandment.

I respect the opinions of General Authorities but I feel no obligation to agree with all of them because I'm entitled to my own opinions. As I said earlier, there is room in the gospel for differences of opinion. For example, there are members of the church who believe very strongly in the death penalty for valid moral reasons. These members are active in the church. They hold callings, have current temple recommends and are doing their best to live the Celestial law. There are also members who are opposed to the death penalty for equally valid moral reasons. They are also active in church, hold callings, attend the temple, etc. Is the pro death penalty person wrong in his beliefs? Or is the the anti-death penalty person wrong? The simple fact of the matter is this: Neither are wrong. They just have differences of opinion on this matter. The official policy of the church on capital punishment is that it's acceptable if the law of the land deems it so. That leaves a lot of room either way. The same thing can be said about the abortion issue, politics and even movie ratings.

We needn't feel morally conflicted for having an opinion that differs from that of a General Authority. We are also free to interpret their council for ourselves.

The latest version of the "Strength for Youth" pamphlet talks about avoiding media that glorifies sex and violence. In my opinion, a movie like "Basic Instinct" glorifies both, so I refuse to watch it. (I came to this opinion not because of the rating but because I took the time to read reviews and learn about the movie.) However, "A Clockwork Orange," while depicting sex and violence, does not, in my opinion, glorify it because it is the story of a man who is sent to prison for his sex and violence related crimes. He is later subjected to an experiment that prevents him from ever doing those things again, but by the end of the film you actually feel sorry for him because not only is he unable to commit those crimes, he is also unable to defend himself or have a normal relationship with someone because the experiment he was subjected to made no distinction between a sex crime and a sex act one might engage in when married or otherwise romantically involved with someone. It made no distinction between physically hurting someone out of malice and fighting to defend oneself. There are clear differences between an act of malice and one of defense or simple human interaction. But the experiment, much like the attitudes of people who think the ratings system is all encompassing, made no distinction.

Brigham Young once said, "Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and the follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin and just dread of its consequences."

Powerful words worthy of a medium as powerful as cinema.

Jack spoke of modesty and the arts having been perverted from an expression of beauty and truth into something ugly. Jack, what do you think truth is? Do you think it's all pretty and nice and comfortable and safe. Did you read my letter to Sarah Kirk? Particularly the part about truth in art? "...the humanities represent not just what's beautiful about us, but also what's ugly about us.... If we made nothing but shallow movies about perfect Mormons with no flaws living up to the ideals of the Church without failing, that would be the worst lie we could tell to anyone who would watch our films."

But I understand that most people can't wrap their minds around higher concepts like that. For the same reason they spend their money on safe, family friendly, direct to video, priced to own crap on VHS and DVD. Who was it that said, you'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator? It's simply easier and more comfortable to just do as you're told or take some friendly advice as gospel truth, not to be deterred from. Like the sheep on Orwell's "Animal Farm" who could not understand the laws of the republic as they were written on the barn wall, they simply learned the mantra, "Four legs good, two legs bad." Or in this case "G is good, R is bad."

If you want to live your life with your head buried in the sand and believe that all moral issues are black and white, fine. If you want an existence devoid of passion and challenging ideas, where you're content with letting others do your thinking for you, go right ahead. If you want to spend your mortal probation hanging your head being ashamed of your own humanity, no one will stop you. But don't you dare presume to think that your choices give you the right to pass judgment on others for choosing to use their God-given abilities to think for themselves and have their own opinions.

Jack made a lot of assumptions about me, based on only a handful of sentences. He accused me of being proud, misguided, making excuses instead of exercising judgment, being saddened by council from a general authority, which was not the case. He also accused me of speaking with a spirit of contention. I think he even accused me of being a liberal arts professor, but I could be wrong on that, though the interpretation would be understandable. (I'm not a liberal arts professor and "liberal" is not a dirty word.)

I live in central Utah, but I attend a Spanish speaking Branch. Sometimes I think if it wasn't for attending the branch, I wouldn't be active in the church because I am so discouraged by the attitudes of members in the local wards. They are as quick to judge me as Jack is and I am constantly being put in the uncomfortable position by my nonmember friends, of having to defend the church from the arrogance and stupidity of some of its members. The irony is not lost on me that I'm just as guilty of judging these members for being judgmental and it's frustrating.

Jack, if you want to call me a sinner, go right ahead. You're not the only one. But do it for something legitimate! Call me a sinner for swearing too much, because I do. Call me a sinner for being a glutton, I have very little self control in that respect. Call me a sinner for being envious of other people's money, because I am. Living in poverty will do that to you. But don't call me a sinner because my favorite movie happens to be "Magnolia."


Joseph L. Puente

[FOR CONTEXT, BELOW IS Bro. Brinkeroff's letter.]

I would like to respond Joseph Puente's letter and use it as a springboard to address some thoughts to all LDS filmmakers.

Mr. Puente seems to have the misguided notion that art and morality are separate from religion and morality. Unfortunately, he's not the only one. I remember confronting this issue while a film student at BYU. I recall a conversation between several LDS actresses discussing just how much flesh they were willing to show if they thought the project was right. There should have been NO discussion because we know what the prophets and apostles have taught regarding modesty. And nowhere in their teachings is there an exception that includes tastefully done nudity for the arts. In addition, after partaking of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord's arrival because they were naked. Do you see the subtle connection there? They were no longer innocent and knew the difference between right and wrong and went to cover up.

As for those that excuse the watching of a movie because the R rating is due only to graphic violence: they need to read further along in the book of Genesis and find out why God flooded the earth during the time of Noah. It wasn't because people were dropping the "F-bomb," but, in part, because "the earth was filled with violence." Yes, I know the violence in movies is simulated, but so is most of the sexual activity. That doesn't make viewing it any more acceptable.

Elder Cree-L Kofford of the Seventy said, "What difference does it make why it is rated R? The fact is, a prophet of God has said not to go to R-rated movies. That ought to be enough." (Ensign, July 1998, 16).

There are a million and one rationales that a person can use for excusing himself for participating in any activity that is contrary to the teachings of the Church leaders. There may be even more when it comes to R rated movies. But for someone to be "saddened" by the counsel of a Church authority shows a much deeper problem than one's viewing habits.

Heavenly Father has endowed all of his children with gifts and talents. For some it's singing, for others painting, for some writing, and so on. These gifts haven't been given to use separately from our quest to gain exaltation, but to be used in conjunction with that goal. I believe very strongly that the arts are a vital part of life. The scriptures teach us that angels sing. There was a theatre in Nauvoo. One of the first buildings to go up in the Salt Lake Valley was a bowery for entertainment purposes followed by an actual theatre. The Mormon Tabernacle choir was established early on in the Church's history and has been an important part of our nation's culture. Obviously our Church leaders see the need for these things. So to suggest in any way, shape or form that they can't speak out against that which they believe is spiritually damaging is the epitome of prideful thinking. I'd put my trust in a servant of the Lord giving me instruction on how to make it back to God's presence way, way before the teachings of some liberal arts professor!

Like all good things that come from divine conception, the arts have been perverted from an expression of beauty and truth into something ugly. (And this certainly isn't true in all cases.) Another example would be the internet, which has thousands of practical and wonderful uses. It can be educational. It can aid in missionary efforts. It's an awesome tool for genealogy work. But it's also a powerful weapon when used by Satan. People no longer have to leave their home for the adversary to lure them into activities that are immoral and debasing. It comes to them. Just like the internet, how we use our talents determines their value to society. I feel quite confident in saying that the Spirit has never inspired someone to take a photograph, paint a picture, write a song, etc. that is contrary to that which is virtuous, lovely, or of good report.

And since when has nudity, sex, profane language, or graphic violence ever been a necessary element for good art? There are hundreds and hundreds of outstanding films that have never relied on those things. A truly talented writer or director can imply anything he desires without showing it. In fact, it takes absolutely no imagination to elicit an emotional response from someone by laying everything out on the table. And simply because the various entertainment entities have made a habit out of rewarding that which is overtly crass and immoral with awards doesn't make what they're doing of value.

As members of the LDS Church we have a responsibility to be in the world but not of it. To be different. That's not an easy thing to do, but neither is making it into the Celestial Kingdom.

I can tell you from my personal experience working in L.A. that the majority of those I dealt with have a completely different set of morals than I do. I worked with one head of development that told me he "hated" organized religion. I heard another prominent story editor brag about the fact that she wasn't "at all spiritual." The language that many of them use in everyday conversation is enough to make a sailor blush.

I believe there is a huge audience out there that wants something more than the flood of garbage that Hollywood continues to produce. That's why the highest grossing R-rated film is a movie about the Savior. That's why the vast majority of the top grossing films of all time are G, PG, or PG-13. Look at the statistics of what sells on VHS and DVD: family films do the best. People might rent the trash, but they buy the things that have general appeal.

Disney has proven that you can make a quality, entertaining movie without the pollutants. Remember the Titans, The Princess Diaries, and The Rookie all did over $100 million at the box office and were void of the trash.

I believe as LDS filmmakers we need to set our sights higher than simply making "Mormon Movies." We have a responsibility and a duty to use our talents to help improve the world around us; to give those who want it an alternative to the soulless trash Hollywood cranks out. Joseph F. Smith taught that during the Millennium life will go on much as it is today and that industry will continue. I believe entertainment will still be a part of that existence, but I can guarantee you it won't be the kind of stuff we see coming from the mainstream entertainment industry. Those who are going to be a part of that world then, have to be a part of it while in this world.

One final, more personal note to Mr. Puente. To refer to members of the Church who accept at face value the teachings of the Church leaders as "shallow and insipid" is quite unfortunate. The spirit of contention behind such comments speaks volumes.

Jack Brinkerhoff

Another response to Brother Brinkerhoff:

I'll have to admit this line of thought has got me thinking again. Saturday I rented the R-rated movie, Bunker, being the incurable WWII buff that I am.

I've taken to renting VHS versions of R movies because I've found TV Guardian doesn't work on DVD's sometimes because DVD's sometimes use the subtitle feature instead of closed captioning that TV Guardian relies on. Unfortunately this VHS tape was not closed-captioned either, so we were exposed to a few iterations of the "s" word. As I watched I contemplated the recent suggestion that I could not have the spirit if I was in disobedience, but I nevertheless found the spirit to be with me. I think it was because I was not the one using the language, and I was not watching the film because I wanted to indulge myself in foul language. I was watching the film for another purpose, and I did get a valuable aesthetic experience from the film, both in decoding/experiencing the meaning, and in the meaning itself (somewhat along the lines of Schindler's list in a psychological study of the effects of killing on the human psyche). As far as the bad content, I find myself discarding it mentally rather than focusing on it. Maybe I would feel differently if children were in the home. Maybe it would rub off on me if I were exposed to it frequently. We are certainly exposed to it in real living situations in which we do not have the option of turning it off.

John Kolak

LDS filmmaker Joseph Puente further discusses the "R" movie rating (responding to Nikki):

Part of the problem with this whole "R-rated" debate is that people assume that if you watch an R-rated movie you'll watch anything.

This is not the case. As I stated in my comments on Ratings and Morality, I'm very particular about what I watch.

Nikki has made the ASSUMPTION that because I might watch a film with sexuality and violence depicted in it than I'll watch anything having to do with sex or violence.

Nikki, the thought of sitting around watching people having sex or being bruatally beaten does not appeal to me and I resent your assumption that it would. Like Jack, you know nothing about me and my tastes but you insist on accusing me of things that I have not done and passing judgment on me for them.

This attitude is a symptom of a much bigger problem among our members. They are spending so much time worrying about other peoples' failings and looking down on them for it that they're oblivious of the immoral corner they're painting themselves in.

Shall I quote a scripture to make it more clear?

Matthew 7:3 "And why beholdest though the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

I'm not accusing you of anything, Nikki. I don't know what's in your heart. But you do. No one is perfect in this world. And I try very hard not to wag my finger in other people's faces telling them what theyir faults are because I should be more concerned about where I'm falling short. Where are you falling short, Nikki? That's a rhetorical question. You needn't tell me your faults.

There is a family I know in the town where I work. They are very good at pointing out the flaws in others. They look down on people who watch R-rated movies. They don't miss an opportunity to get up during testimony meetings and scold the Ward for not being spiritual enough. They are so convinced of their own salvation they feel obligated to try and save everyone else. We all know people like this. There's got to a family like that in every ward or branch around the world.

One of the risks with telling a people that they're gods-in-embryo is that when some of them think they've got it all figured out, they just drop the "in-embryo" part and start acting, not like God, but they they THINK God SHOULD act. Pious, judgmental, vengeful!

They're very quick to say "The prophet said not to watch R-rated movies!"

But would they know the answer to the question, "And which prophet said we can't be arrogant and self righteous?"

(Answer: Gordon B. Hinkley)

I'll take a humble fan of "Fight Club" over a self righteous jerk who refuses to watch it any day of the week!

I'd also like to clarify some things about my movie viewing. I do not watch pornography. Nor do I watch snuff films. I don't care for horror films or slasher movies. I don't go to the movies or rent movies very often and when I do it's only after doing careful research.

As for films that I feel treat violence and sexuality responsibly, I'll throw a few titles out there for you.

"City of Angels" has a beautiful love scene with Nick Cage and Meg Ryan. It isn't graphic at all. It's very romantic and does some interesting work with shadows and incorporates dialogue that is really incredible. Consider that Cage's character Seth is an angel who until maybe 48 hours before this scene had no concept of physical pleasure or pain. When he becomes human, he gets beat up, stands in the cold rain hitch hiking and finally finds the woman he's in love with. But what makes their love scene effective and meaningful is when Maggie dies the very next day. Can you imagine what that would be like. To experience the most wonderful natural sensation known to human beings and then follow it so closely with the most incredible emotional pain you can imagine, the death of the love of your life? Losing Maggie wouldn't have been as painful for Seth, or the audience for that matter, were it not juxtaposed against their shared pleasure of the night before. That's what I mean by handling sexuality in an artistic and beautiful way.

As for violence, I think "The Passion of The Christ" handled it in an artistic and realistic way. In my opinion, it was probably the closest any film has come to eliciting an empathic response from an audience. As Latter-day Saints, we're taught that Christ's suffering was mostly in the Garden of Gethsemane. "The Passion" is the only film I've seen that actually depicts Christ sweating blood! And the scorging he endures in the film, while certainly difficult to watch, makes one wonder what the experience was really like for him. Considering the atonement meant that Christ had to take on the emotional burdens of every living person from all time, what was depicted on the screen in Gibson's film probably doesn't add up to a fraction of a percent of what Christ really went through. And I don't think it's something that should be sugercoated.

Another example of realistic use of violence in a film is Roman Polanski's "The Pianist." We see Adrien Brody doing everything he can to stay alive because he saw the random assassination of his fellow countrymen. He knew that he could be killed at any time if he didn't try and hide. I bring up this film because at my local video store I saw it on the "Edited" rack. I'm not a fan of censorship in any form. But when I saw "The Pianist" displayed there, I thought, "What would they find so offensive that they would have to edit it out?" The random killings, of course. But consider what that does to the story. If you take out the random killing, it changes Brody's motivation. He is no longer a talented pianist hiding to save his life. In the edited version, he's just a guy trying to get out of work. The violence is necessary to tell the story.

Well, I hope these examples have put a few minds at ease. I'm NOT deranged or perverted. I simply do not judge a film based on its rating and, in my opinion, I don't anyone should. Think about it. If books were given ratings, even our scriptures would be rated R and only a fool would deny that.


Joseph L. Puente

If you would like to send any more comments directly to me, I'll be happy to hear them and keep the dialogue going. I'm sure a few people on this list might be tired of this one by now.

[FOR CONTEXT, BELOW IS Nikki Jacob's letter.]

Your comments were interesting, especially the one about willingly watching sex and violence if it pertains to the story. If you and your friends were to sit around watching each other have sex you would be considered perverted. If you were to watch with interest and intrigue someone being brutally beaten, you might be considered deranged, but in cinema it is art? As a film student I have seen many good films get their point across without excessive sex, violence, or offensive language so I know it is possible. While I do realize that the MPAA may not be completely consistent or even accurate in their ratings, if it is good enough for President Hinckley it is good enough for me.

-Nikki Jacob

Subscriber agrees with Bro. Puente:

I have to agree with Brothe Puente.

- Linda Gray subscriber Annie Edwards responds to discussion of R-rated movies:

I would truly like to thank Bro. Joseph Puente for his comments about "R" rated movies. And other comments he has written too. You see, I have children in this business and I always keep a mental note of directors that I hope they get to work with someday. Now I also have a category of directors that I would NOT let them work with, even though they may profess to be LDS. Joe Puente is first on that list.

After a previous letter I read of Bro. Puente's vulgar descriptions of the sexual act of conception to a very innocent teenage girl, who was crying out for LDS film-makers to reach to a higher standard, I realized that Bro. Puente has a different agenda that my family does. Now, after reading that he thinks Church members, who blindly obey the Prophet's counsel to not view "R" rated movies, are "shallow and insipid" I know for sure that this is one director who my children would not be safe with on set.

Those of us who choose to pursue or agree to let our children pursue a career in the entertainment field must make sure that each and every offering we make would be acceptable to the Lord. How disappointing to hear that someone who could be in a position to do some real good in the world, feels that sex can have a "legitimate place and purpose for the telling of the story." There is NEVER, ever a reason for me become a voyeur, watching the sexual acts of other people being portrayed on the screen. It serves no purpose and has no place. Must we begin every film with the act of conception being portrayed so that everyone can clearly understand how and why the main characters came to be born and then went on to be in the story? No, it's just not necessary. It serves only one purpose and that is to get an inappropriate and cheap thrill. It is NOT art. God never meant for sex to be public in any way, shape or form. It is to be private and sacred.

Annie Edwards

Sis. Edwards responded specifically to the following message by Bro. Puente:

Even an apostle of the church cannot know what is in the heart of an individual. I'm saddened when any member of the church, particularly an apostle, implies that a person's morality can be judged by their taste in art. Only the art of cinema has this stigma surrounding it because it is the only art form that is subject to a ratings board. When I watch a film that happens to have an R rating, I do not say, "I can handle the 'bad' parts." I watch films that I find moving and worthwhile to see regardless of the rating. I do not waste my time watching films with sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence. But if those elements have a legitimate place and purpose for the telling of the story, so be it. Unfortunately, a great deal of members in the church are shallow and insipid enough to believe that one's taste is an indicator of their morality. This simply isn't so. Sincerely, Joseph L. Puente

Another response to Brother Puente:

J. Puente tries to defend his position re R-rated movies with the argument that the film industry is the only one that devises such a code. Be that as it may, (I am not sure if such is the case) I would like to know of any--any--legal product that is not monitored by itself or by the govt. The magazine Consumer Report(s) is an example of the purchasing public's desire to be informed of what they are getting for their money. Even addicts like to know if what they are buying is "pure."

Makes sense that movies, which can have a lasting impression, should have some sort of standard by which the public is warned.

- Frank Allison

Brother Allison writes further:

It is a fascinating so-called dialogue entered into by those who become great judges of art when it comes to R-rated movies that are . What kind of "arguement" is Brother J. Puente attempting when he queries "even an apostle of the church [that should read "of the Lord"] cannot know what is in the heart of an individual"?

Let's see what the Lord and His servants have to say on the matter:

Luke 6: 45 "...out the abundance of the heart his [a movie maker's] mouth speaketh;

Matt 5: 28 "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart", and

Mark 7:20-21 "That which cometh out of the man [once again, film makers], that defileth the man. For from within, out of the HEART of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders."

An apt description of sex and violence if one ever existed!

Finally, "Because of the evils and designs which do and will exist in the HEARTS of conspiring men in the last days...." reads the 89th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants.

The only reason I can think for any one to view such filth is the rationalization used by the Nephites. (See Jacob 2.)

If what we create for the cinema--a manifestion of the thoughts, intentions, and deepest desires of our hearts, what is?

As for me and my house, we will follow Elder David A. Bednar.