‘The Saratov Approach’ shatters box office records of previous Mormon films

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The Saratov Approach,” directed by BYU graduate Garrett Batty, has pushed the boundaries of the “Mormon Movie” genre by holding its own on the national level.

Actors on set of the Saratov Approach in Kiev. Corbin Allred and Maclain Nelson star as Elders Tuttle and Propst in the film about real-life missionaries who were abducted while serving in Russia. (Photo courtesy of Garrett Batty.)
Actors on set of the Saratov Approach in Kiev. Corbin Allred and Maclain Nelson star as Elders Tuttle and Propst in the film about real-life missionaries who were abducted while serving in Russia. (Photo courtesy of Garrett Batty.)

Grossing more than $2.1 million at the box office, according to Cedar Fort Publishing representative Scott Champion, the adaptation of the true story of two LDS missionaries who were kidnapped in Russia shattered all previous LDS movie records and has been played in front of audiences around the country.

“It’s been wonderful, honestly, to see this success,” Batty said. “It’s really due to the message of the film. When these missionaries were abducted, the actions they took toward their kidnappers was the opposite of what a typical hero would do in a movie. It wows and intrigues people about the Church.”

The real-life event was enough to intrigue Batty, as a young film student at BYU, to make plans to one day produce a movie about it.

“I heard about the story as it happened when I was a student in 1998,” Batty said. “From the moment I heard about it on the news I was interested in making a film about it. It took years before I could actually get started on it, mostly due to selfish reasons. I wanted to be the one who directed the film.”

Waiting paid off for Batty and others who worked on the project. The film was made and released during what seemed to be an opportune moment, when missionary work was becoming more prevalent than ever for members of the LDS Church.

But, as Batty notes, waiting any longer might have made the project impossible, since one of the main locations for filming was in Ukraine, the same location where violent riots are currently taking place.

“It’s weird to watch the news and think, less than a year ago we were there filming,” Batty said, “when today, filming there wouldn’t even be an option.”

For Batty, filming in realistic locations was important because staying true to the story was a key priority in making the movie.

“The actual event is what was so inspiring and so compelling,” Batty said. “You’ve got nationwide newspaper headlines talking about an entire country praying for Mormon missionaries. That, to me, is better than anything I could’ve made up.”

Many who saw the movie agreed that the stirring story was one of hope and faith.

“I thought it was beautifully made,” said BYU sophomore Taylor Campbell. “It showed that God will look out for us if we put our trust in Him.”

Due to the positive reaction of those who saw it in theaters, “The Saratov Approach” was released on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, March 11, and is expected to see continued success.

“Pre-orders for the movie were unprecedented for LDS movies,” said Spencer Harden, the acquisition and development manager at Cedar Fort Publishing.

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