Actors and filmmakers showcased their work at the annual LDS Film Festival at the SCERA Center for the Arts in Orem in early March. The program’s new owners announced the festival’s name will change to the Zion International Film Festival by the end of the year.
“We hope this name change will allow the festival to feel more inclusive and broaden the reach of submissions, but will continue the rich tradition and history of not only LDS film and filmmakers, but also many others that have submitted films and videos from around the world that align with the mission and purpose of the festival,” said new festival owners Marshall and Michelle Moore after the awards ceremony.
With the name change, the Moores hope to send a message of inclusivity and to welcome more filmmakers with diverse backgrounds and stories to tell.
Although the event is widely known for showcasing movies with themes revolving around The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints such as “Mission Stories,” “Tomb of Joseph” and “Undaunted,” it has also displayed films by nonmember filmmakers in Japanese and French. The Moores said during more than two decades, one of the goals of the festival has remained to be the promotion of cinema as a means of conversation and perspective in order to touch the heart and open the mind.
“I feel like this festival has a nice sense of community to it,” said Davey Morrison, director of the web series “The Second Book of Adam and Eve.”
“I’ve been to a number of festivals around the country and I feel like this is one that really stands out for me because you get to participate in a Q&A, watch your movie with an audience and hear how they respond to it,” he said.
A gay Latter-day Saint artist’s reconciliation with the Church
One of the movies inspiring controversy was “Bright Spark,” a documentary about Zimbabwean artist Trevor Southey, a gay Latter-day Saint who dreamed about transforming Salt Lake City’s Temple Square into a place full of art where people could go for contemplation.
The documentary tells the story of Southey’s experience being excommunicated from the Church after his sexuality was exposed.
One of the main topics of the documentary is reconciliation, as the Church invited Southey to rejoin the faith 30 years after his excommunication. The film touches on personal freedom, religious belonging and how to use honesty and compassion in one’s artistic expression.
“One of our goals in the making of the film was to provide space for a conversation, and I really hope that it gave people a chance for reconciliation in their own lives,” said Nathan Florence, co-director of “Bright Spark.”
Florence said even though the documentary’s main character is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they created the movie to get responses from within and outside the Church.
One of the first places “Bright Spark” was screened prior to the LDS Film Festival was in Seattle. According to Florence, the audience had mostly little-to-no connection to the Church, but they were still able to relate and apply the story to their own life experiences.
“I also have heard responses from people within the Church who see the documentary as a way to start a conversation with their families,” Florence said. “Especially right now, we have tried extremely hard to handle this very delicate issue with compassion, making it very clear that our movie was not an attack.”