'Meet the Mormons' examines the very diverse lives of six devout Mormons. Filmed on location and across the globe, Meet the Mormons takes viewers on a journey into the day-to-day realities of individuals living in the U.S., Costa Rica, Nepal and beyond. From their individual passions to their daily struggles, each story paints a picture as rich and unique as the next while challenging the stereotypes that surround the Mormon faith.
Jermaine Sullivan, Ken Niumatalolo, Carolina Muñoz Marin, Bishnu Adhikari, Gail Halvorsen, Dawn Armstrong, Jenna Kim Jones
The Mormon religion certainly has a large media presence with its various defensive commercials stating “I’m [insert name here], a [insert job profession] and I’m a Mormon.” Now all those “we’re still normal” ads have been collected and ballooned into a feature length documentary. Remaining vigilant to their media strategy, this is a bulky fluff piece that doesn’t answer any of the questions proposed in the intro. It’s just another diversionary tactic that dances around the issue while showing off some of the Mormons’ most proud and cultured members.
If all Meet the Mormons wanted to do was show the religion’s most esteemed, it’d simply be a forgettable bit of fluff. But the host begins the film with street surveys asking what people know about Mormons. Of course, they choose some of the softest answers from the most ignorant of well-meaning citizens. The host then begins the film with media examples of joking about Mormons and their perceived customs. But rather than directly address the specifics of the religion to clear up misconceptions, we’re steered away to some profiles on Mormons. I’m guessing this decision in direction was to showcase some admirable folk and make the misinformed not question based on the presentation.
Because, honestly, these are some rather unique Mormons that are touted as the best of the best. There’s a black family man acting as a bishop that is adored by everyone in the community (See? Mormons are not racist). There’s a naval football coach who doubles as a Sunday school teacher at the LDS church (See? Coaches can be Mormon). There are even Mormons in Costa Rica and Nepal that all seem decent. These all seem like nice people, but what does all this have to do with the other misconceptions of Mormonism? Was there some idea in the media about Mormons not existing in Costa Rica I didn’t know about?
Sometimes the profiles don’t even seem to be about religion at all as is the case with the Gail Halvorson, famed for establishing the candy bombers. There’s a lengthy story he tells about how he helped drop candy to the children of Germany during his supply runs. His story is rather incredible and should be its own documentary honestly. Outside of a brief mention about how he felt a higher power speak to him about giving children some of his candy, this section doesn’t have all that much to do with Mormonism. By this point, you might as well just present war tales with Mormon soldiers. I’d actually prefer it since it would be a much more pleasant distraction.
All these profile segments are played much too high with the editing and swelling music. This documentary was funded by the Church of Latter Day Saints which explains that distinct style of filmmaking. The family profiles feature plenty of B-roll footage of families playing and laughing merrily. The music swells with the typical soapy effect of every LDS commercial trying so hard to generate an emotional response. So drawn out are all these stories and overly produced with the score and edits that it makes you want to hit the non-existent button for Skip This Ad.
Meet the Mormons wants to show the world the positive aspect of the religion, but doesn’t want to talk about the specifics. All those misconceptions you had about Mormonism are probably true as they’re never fully addressed in this documentary. The way it redirects the viewer into analyzing some well-meaning Mormons as opposed to focusing on the core principles of the religion is a rather childish argument for the LDS church. It’s the movie equal of a Mormon politely laughing awkwardly when asked the gutsier questions about their faith and then changing the conversation. After all, you didn’t actually expect the LDS church to talk about any of their questionable actions, did you?
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Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Classification is to be confirmed by the British Board of Film Classification
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