Recently, I watched the film "The Work and the Glory III: A House Divided," part 3 in a series of films based on the popular historical fiction novels by Gerald Lund, a Seventy in the Church. After the movie I discussed with some friends certain elements of the movie that did not represent LDS standards.
This movie is rated PG and there isn't much to be ashamed of. There is a lot of cigar smoking (those corrupt Missourians) and one of the lead actresses flaunts her cleavage quite well.
In the film's defense I cited historical accuracy. At that time many men smoked cigars, it being common among upright gentlemen. It was also customary during that time for women to wear dresses that purposely highlighted certain parts of their figure.
But the point was made that if LDS artists want to make films that appeal to the general membership of the Church they should find ways to tactfully work around these conflicts and uphold the current standards of the Church in their work.
This led me to reflect on the current box we place LDS cinema in. My fear is that our culture in the Church has created a situation in which making a successful LDS-themed film that draws in many members of the Church while being acclaimed as an overall good movie is impossible.
Case in point - if an LDS artist produces a film that upholds all Church standards and could be played in the cultural hall for a youth activity it is usually received as flat and boring. Many feel it is the Church's job to produce these films anyway. But if an LDS artist produces a film concentrating more on their creativity and expression than Church standards it is seen as controversial. And in many cases the film maker is criticized.
Richard Dutcher made ripples in the bloggernacle when he announced he was leaving the Church. Prior to this news I bought States of Grace (aka God's Army II) and fell in love with it. At first, I was caught off guard by the controversial situations it presented. But after I had some time to ponder the movie's meaning I realized that the overall message of the film was the Grace of Jesus Christ and that His Atonement extends to all.
I do know that Dutcher received a lot of criticism for this film. Sometimes I wonder if this criticism from members of the Church was a part of the overall reason he left. Did he come to the conclusion that in order to find true joy in film making and have the freedom to express himself he would have to remove himself from the confining box of LDS cinema?
I pose this question - Does the culture of our Church make it impossible for an LDS film maker to produce a successful film that appeals to multiple audiences?