There were a number of quality films at the LDS Film Festival. However, there were a few that weren’t quite ready for a screening, but were coming soon on the horizon.
PASSAGE TO ZARAHEMLA: I heard Chris Heimerdinger speak (author of the popular “Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites” Series) about his new film “Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites” series. A newcomer in the LDS Film market, Heimerdinger has already made some waves (if not controversial ones) after publishing an article in the Deseret News criticizing Richard Dutcher’s “States of Grace” (after which the Deseret News also published a counter point article written by LDS playwright Eric Samuelsen defending Dutcher’s film), after which there was also a flurry of debate between Heimerdinger and others on the Association of Mormon Letters e-mail list.
Yet, whatever I may have thought of the previous controversies, I was impressed with Heimerdinger’s presentation. His thoughts on Mormon Cinema were intelligent and he certainly wasn’t being a firebrand. He said something which was very similar to something I heard Dutcher say a number of years back, to the effect of: I’m only interested in making LDS films. I’m not trying to crossover. If I can stay in the genre, I will. The Mormons are the people I love and they are the ones I want to create for.
However, that depends if he can make his bread and butter doing so, which is becoming increasingly difficult to do in the Mormon Cinema genre. Yet with the popularity behind the “Tennis Shoes” books, perhaps there is a built in audience for this film. And, if it’s successful, Heimerdinger expressed interest in making more films.
But will “Passage To Zarahemla” be a quality film? Well, I only saw about fifteen minutes of clips and the recently completed trailer, but what I saw was encouraging. The writing seemed pretty solid, the acting better than most LDS films and the film work seemed to be of a good quality (I was surprised to learn that Heimerdinger actually studied film in his university years and it was only his success as an author that prevented him from going into that field).
Whether “Passage To Zarahemla” will be one of the best of the genre, I don’t know. Time will tell. However, it does seem to me to be a commendable addition and, if it can breathe new life into Mormon Cinema, as Heimerdinger seems to hope it will, then I truly hope that it becomes successful. For, if it doesn’t, it may be one of the last of a dying breed.
Heimerdinger hopes to release “Passage To Zarahemla” April 6, but if it’s not ready by then, he said it will most likely be released in August.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend any other of the presentations on the uncompleted films, but here’s some sketchy information on other upcoming LDS fillm projects:
PIRATES OF THE GREAT SALT LAKE:
This seems to be a legitmately funny, satirical take on the “pirate fever” that’s come upon the unwitting members of mankind since “Pirates of the Carribean.” Starring (who else?) Kirby Heyborne. It’s also won a number of awards through the film festival circuit.
This looks to be a highly clever, very funny mockumentary about what one may call “Santa-ologists.” Two scientifically minded, conspiracy theorists are trying to get to the bottom of the whole Santa myth– or reality. Starring Chris Clark (one of the most talented theatrical director and actors in Utah Valley– and, no, I’m not just saying that because he directed one of my plays) and Daryn Tufts (Singles Ward; American Mormon). Oh, and I’ve also heard that William Shatner is narrating.
TEARS OF A KING- THE LATTER-DAYS OF ELVIS PRESLEY:
I don’t know what the quality level of this film will be, but I hope it’s good because I find the premise to be very interesting. At the end of his life Elvis Presley was having a spiritual quest– including a marked up Book of Mormon and increasing interest in the Latter-day Saints.
In my next and final entry on the LDS Film Festival I will review the films that I actually got to see: Outlaw Trail, The Dance, The Return and Mr. Dungbeetle.