What About Jer3miah?

The final episode of the first season of The Book of Jer3miah is supposed to be posted sometime today. I watched all 19 of the previous episodes earlier this week (each episode is only about 5 minutes long), and I have to say that I think its worth a look.I don’t know that I’m really qualified to review a film (or a television program–this is more like a televison drama series), so take my review with a grain of salt. [Perhaps someone else with better chops can weigh in later.] You’ll also have to be prepared to overlook the problems in most experimental, no-budget films: acting that is uneven or untrained, no special effects to speak of, and overall barely adequate production values.

But Jer3miah is ambitious and willing to dive into delivering a television-like drama (albeit with very short episodes) over the Internet. I’m not aware of any other Mormon work delivered this way, which makes me wonder if it is possible that Jer3miah could open up a new type of distribution for Mormon film, though how a producer would make any money from this distribution remains to be seen.

The series tells the story of Jeremiah Whitley, a BYU freshman whose parents travel from Seneca Falls, New York to visit him for his birthday and give him a video camera as a present. But when the family travels to Manti for a family reunion things start to get strange. Jeremiah is susceptible to “promptings” and a series of events lead him to both heartache and joy and to mystery and fear. All is not what it seems, and Jeremiah must puzzle out exactly what it all means. Jeremiah also must figure his way out of a few moral dilemmas along the way.

Overall, the plot moves along fairly well, without confusing the viewer or revealing the mystery at all. While the acting was reasonable, I’d have to call it flat–the ideas get across, but without much emotion. You may also struggle with the sound levels (which came out too low on my machine) and with getting the video delivery to work (I used the vimeo system on the Book of Jer3miah website and had to puzzle through two episodes where the video stuck on a frame while the audio continued. The episodes are also available on youtube, but there seemed to be at least a week’s delay there).

But despite all these problems, I have to admit I’m hooked a little. I’m looking forward to today’s episode, but, realistically, I don’t think the mystery will be solved, or most of the questions answered. I fully expect a cliff-hanger.

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I should note that Jer3miah is not without controversy. A post on the blog ‘Twas Brillig drew more than 40 comments, mainly discussing the portrayal of the sacred (even though there isn’t much portrayal of the sacred — apparently some object to Jeremiah’s “promptings”) and the idea that Mormon stories should be told at all.

But, there were a few thoughts in the comments that struck me: the idea that there is a bias in Utah county against telling Mormon stories, the idea that discomfort can or is used to determine when a work is “appropriate,” and the question of when something is “just entertainment” or whether anything can really be “just entertainment.”

9 thoughts on “What About Jer3miah?”

  1. First of all, thanks for the linky love!

    I agree that Jer3miah is absolutely worth watching. I think it’s pioneering a new age in LDS media and I’m excited to see where it takes us. (And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit “refresh” on the Jer3miah home page, waiting for that season finale to be put up today!)

    Great article!

  2. Thanks, Kent, for the comments about Jer3miah. It really is a revolutionary idea and worth experiencing just to see new media used in this way.

    As far as the Utah County perception of various forms of Mormon art: it is encouraging to see UVU with its burgeoning Mormon Studies initiative; this is a refreshing new trend in the area.

  3. .

    I watched the first episode not long after it came out. The primary reason I didn’t continue was impatience with web video.

    But I will admit that I also had a heightened skepticism. Although I believe deeply in Mormon art’s potential and try to support the Mormon arts best I can, I am still poisoned with the if-it’s-mormon-it-must-suck poison of years past.

    This reminds me of Dallas’s post yesterday. You should read it. Between it and the Brillig post I read, I’m worried about Mormon faith in Mormon capacity.

  4. This reminds me of Dallas’s post yesterday. You should read it. Between it and the Brillig post I read, I’m worried about Mormon faith in Mormon capacity.

    And that is why, I think, the radical middle matters, as Wm. keeps pointing out—because those of us who stake our claim there try, I believe, to observe both worlds (inside and outside Mormonism) and to negotiate the narrow passage between them (though I know what you mean when you say you’re “still poisoned with the if-it’s-mormon-it-must-suck poison”—I find myself suffering from that disease myself sometimes).

  5. I was going to post on the same thing last night but didn’t and have to admit to some blogger jealousy flowing in Dallas’ direction this morning when I checked Google reader, but my post is going in a completely different direction so I think I’ll still try and write it up and post it tonight or tomorrow morning.

    But to get back to the Th’s point about Mormon faith in Mormon capacity: the more I dig in to this whole Mormon arts and Mormon studies and Mormon culture thing, the more I am convinced that a key mission of Mormon artists at this historical moment in time is to understand and dramatize both the tragedy and the triumph of the LDS people’s (both forced and desperately desired and worked for) assimilation in to American society and how the consequences of that semi-assimilation is going to play out.

  6. Or to put things another way: the problem with Mormon faith in Mormon capacity is that in many ways we have a bizarre situation viz a viz the institutional LDS Church and U.S. cultural production. I don’t know that it’s absolutely unique (and Mormons would do well to better understand their hyphenated brethren and sistren), but it’s peculiarly unique.

  7. I just finished watching all 20 episodes and I have to say, despite the obvious flaws in acting, production value, etc., I’m hooked. I like the spiritual realism that’s at work here and think the show may be opening doors to great things. (At least that’s what I hope.)

  8. I haven’t watched it yet, but I hesitate to label anything in art spiritual realism. I prefer the term Mormon folk realism. But I reserve the right to reverse myself after watching the series.

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