Mormon Film Series at the University of Chicago

From Frank Bednarz, “a programmer with a student film society at the University of Chicago, Doc Films:”

In 2005, Greg Call posted about the Mormonsploitation series at the
Pioneer Theater in New York, so I thought you might be interested to
know that we’re doing a Mormon-themed series. Eight weekly films span
from a 1917 anti-Mormon Paramount feature (on a tinted archival Library

of Congress print), to modern Mormon cinema and this year’s remarkable
throwback, September Dawn. Our schedule is at:

Tickets are five dollar per show and $26 dollars for a quarter pass,
which gets you into any show this quarter, including our second-run
weekend films, and a ten-film retrospective of Akira Kurosawa.


Anyone who goes will, of course, be required to return and report to the rest of us.

15 comments for “Mormon Film Series at the University of Chicago

  1. Matt W.
    September 26, 2007 at 9:56 pm

    Interesting that “The Other Side of Heaven” didn’t make the cut…

  2. Ben
    September 26, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    My wife and I used to go to Doc all the time when I was at UChicago. It was a great deal. Every day of the week has a different theme- French directors, or Gay Cinema of the 50’s, or Film Noir. Weekends were recent movies. Interesting that they’re doing a Mormon theme now.

  3. Ben
    September 26, 2007 at 10:45 pm

    The schedule for Doc is here.

    Interesting selection. Johnny Lingo, States of Grace, the Book of Mormon Movie…

  4. Jeremy
    September 26, 2007 at 11:32 pm

    I’m pleased to see “Cipher in the Snow” listed. It remains an enigma to me. I showed it to a colleague in the drama department at the university where I used to teach, as a tongue-in-cheek explanation for Neil LaBute’s moralizing meanness (she was directing the school’s production of “The Shape of Things”). She was boggled and disturbed by it.

    On the other hand, I’m disappointed that “The Phone Call” isn’t on the docket, as a predecessor to the geek-protagonist of Napoleon Dynamite.

  5. Jack
    September 26, 2007 at 11:45 pm

    Kewl. Go view the Kurosawa masterpieces on the big screen and go home early. Awesome deal.

  6. Ray
    September 26, 2007 at 11:52 pm

    #4 – Amen. I haven’t seen “Cipher in the Snow” in nearly 30 years and haven’t thought of it in at least 20 – and just the mention of the title brought back the chills and horror I felt the first time I saw it so many years ago.

  7. Janet
    September 27, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Ray: “Cipher in the Snow” and “The Letter” traumatized me as a child. Who were these horrible people who let children and grannies die alone? Were they in the pews next to me? The Mormons I knew (and know) weren’t like that! I couldn’t figure out the movies at all.

  8. September 27, 2007 at 8:37 am

    I’ve got Tom Trails filmstrips and LPs, if anyone in Maryland is interested in watching it.

  9. kurt
    September 27, 2007 at 9:00 am

    John, you should try to get those Tom Trails filmstrips on Youtube. If you want to sell them, I’d bid on them on E-bay. I’ll bet their quite a collector’s item. How did you come to have them anyway?

  10. September 27, 2007 at 9:29 am

    Until it gets all preachy at the end (a la “Touch of the Master’s Hand” — when their work uses such powerful images, why can’t artists trust us to get the point without sitting us down to lecture us about what they were trying to say?), “Cipher in the Snow” may be one of the best horror movies ever made. We Primary teachers of the 70s swore we’d never overlook any of our class kids that way.

  11. September 27, 2007 at 11:15 am

    Julie, thanks for this. I’ve been trying to track down “A Mormon Maid” for years.

  12. paula
    September 27, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Tom Trails doesn’t need no stinking You Tube; he has his own site:

  13. September 27, 2007 at 9:38 pm

    The Mormon Movie movement is dead. The obiturary just hasn’t been written yet. It died with the release of the last “Work and Glory” film and Dutcher leaving the faith. Not that I think they contributed to the death, but were simply part of the last gasps.

  14. September 28, 2007 at 2:05 am

    Okay, so I had to look up “Cipher in the Snow,” because I’d never heard of it before. My gosh.

    Stuff like this makes me wish I lived in a real big city — things like this never seem to come to Columbus.

  15. Lib
    October 4, 2007 at 2:48 am

    Re: #13. “The Mormon Movie movement is dead.” No, that’s mistaken. The LDS Film Festival,, which runs concurrent with Sundance, will screen a number of new Mormon films next January, its seventh year:

    “The LDS Film Festival was held for the sixth time in January 2007 and ended with a new attendance record of 4800, a growth in attendance of over 25% compared to 2006 and almost double the number of two years ago.”

    Christian Vuissa, its founder, spent this summer in Austria filming a feature inspired by actual events about a sister missionary and her experiences there. He’s in post-production now. I’ve seen some gorgeous clips.

    The rub is that film is a business and to be successful in a niche market like competing against Hollywood for the entertainment dollar of Mormons, stories and production values have to be good but budgets have to be miniscule, a tall order for any filmmaker.

    Dutcher argues that the well has been poisoned by fluff, flicks that endlessly exploit every imaginable Mormon cultural cliche, usually for cheap laughs, and that audiences have grown so tired and disdainful of this fare that they don’t give more serious Mormon movies much of a chance any more.

    I’m a fan of Dutcher movies and make no particular effort at objectivity. I thought his States of Grace was terrific Mormon cinema. He hoped it would cross over and interest observant Christians anywhere. It didn’t, more’s the pity, and he’s moved on.

    Oh, here’s one. Last January at the festival I saw a fine little film, The Dance. It resonated at many levels and this spring was in theaters in Utah and Idaho, I don’t know where else, but didn’t do much box office, I hear. Look for it on DVD, it’s one of several deightful sleepers out there that go pretty much unnoticed but which are enjoyable and rewarding ways to spend 90 minutes in the dark.

    Googled The Dance:

    I have no connection with any Mormon film, I just like some of them and their passionate makers.

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