LDS Film Festival’s 15th anniversary highlights diversity in LDS cinema

The 15th annual LDS Film Festival will run from March 2 to March 5. (LDS Film Festival)

The LDS Film Festival is celebrating its 15th annual event with a record number of feature films and documentaries.

This year’s festival has films starring famous actors such as Kate Winslet, Jon Heder and Patrick Stewart. A former BYU student’s documentary will also debut.

The festival will emphasize the recent focus on diversity in the film industry by showing a variety of genres, styles and subject matter from March 2-5. From a romantic comedy titled “Christmas Eve” to “The Abolitionists,” a documentary about a group working to end sex slavery, the festival has a wide range of topics.

“This year clearly shows how the LDS film community continues to grow in diversity and strength,” said Christian Vuissa, founder and director of the LDS Film Festival, in a press release. “We are seeing an increase in films that can compete in the international marketplace. What began as a unique LDS-centric film community now offers films with more universal themes and content.”

One film attracting interest this year is called “Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation.” This shot-for-shot remake of the classic “Indiana Jones” movie began as the childhood project of three young boys in 1981. They filmed their adaptation of the movie, completing all the shots except for the finale, over the course of seven years. The boys, now men, decided to finish their film and release it 30 years later. It will premiere at the festival.

One popular competition within the festival is the “homemade” family film competition. Families can create and submit short films to be presented to audiences.

The festival is also screening films written, filmed and produced entirely within 24 hours in the Annual 24-Hour Filmmaking Marathon. The filmmakers are given specific guidelines of what to include in their films. This year filmmakers needed to illustrate the theme of “Wonder,” have a magnifying glass somewhere in the film and include the dialogue line, “I can’t believe … 

“Filmmaking takes so long usually,” Vuissa said. “When you have to make a whole film in 24 hours, you really have to make some special films.”

“The Deacon” will play at this year’s LDS Film Festival. (Brandon Crow)

One film playing at the festival in the documentary section is the work of former BYU journalism student Brandon Crow. His film “The Deacon” tells the story of former Major League baseball legend Vernon Law and his experience as an active member of the LDS Church throughout his career. A renowned pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Law led the team to a World Series win in 1960.

Crow’s film began as a final project for a class at BYU but at the encouragement of a friend he submitted it for consideration to be screened at the LDS Film Festival. Even though it is primarily about a baseball player, Crow said it’s understandable that it’s included in the LDS Film Festival.

Crow recalled one story from Law’s baseball career that describes the man and his impact on the sport. In one game, Law was in the dugout when an umpire made a call his teammates disagreed with. His teammates yelled at the umpire, who then turned to the dugout and threw Law out of the game. Law was confused as to why, because he wasn’t making any trouble.

The next day in the newspaper, the umpire said he threw Law out of the game because the umpire knew the character and religious tradition of the player and didn’t think he should have to be subject to that language.

Brandon Crow, Vernon Law and Reggie Lewis pose at a viewing of Crow’s film “The Deacon.” (Brandon Crow)

Crow said the LDS Film Festival is a perfect place for him to tell Law’s story.

“(Law) was an example of the Mormon church and an example of a man of faith,” Crow said. “I thought that could really resonate with not only an LDS audience, but with people in general. I’ve had friends who are atheists, agnostic, Catholic, LDS who have seen this film tell me they were very touched and very inspired by this man and this story.”

“The Deacon,” titled after Law’s nickname in the Major Leagues, will screen Thursday, March 3 at 12:15 p.m. in the XanGo Grand Theatre at the SCERA Center for the Arts.

The LDS Film Festival will run from Wednesday, March 2 to Saturday, March 5, at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem.

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