In this column, I share the Sundance 2018 film I'm most excited about, the documentary "Believer":
This time of year has the best holidays. Thanksgiving is great, Christmas is magic, New Year’s is fun.
But for film journalists, the season gives even more reasons to celebrate than just those: Not only do some of the best movies come out around this time of year in hopes of picking up annual awards, but what might be my favorite film holiday of all is just around the corner: Sundance.
The festival returns in January, and although I’ve moved away from Utah since I last covered the event last year, I’ve already got my plane ticket and press credentials in hand, ready to return to snowy Utah (hopefully not quite as snowy as last year!) to cover the festival again next month.
Last week, the Sundance Institute announced over 100 feature films that will be screened at this year’s festival, and as I pored over the list of films and their descriptions, my holiday cheer reached candy cane-cocoa-reindeer-stocking-polar-express-snowman levels of excitement.
The film that has me most excited is “Believer,” a documentary featuring Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds as he confronts his faith’s — and mine — relationship to its LGBTQ members. When I came upon the description of the film, I gasped, because although it’s a small, independent documentary, I think it has the potential to spark a public conversation about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a way that doesn’t often happen.
“Believer” won’t actually be the first Sundance film to feature a Mormon rock star as its central subject (“New York Doll,” a film I absolutely adore, also played at the festival in 2005). But I think this one could spark challenging and productive conversations about the faith and its policies regarding LGBTQ people.
When I covered the LOVELOUD concert in Orem earlier this year — an event put on by Reynolds and others with an explicitly pro-gay message and was officially endorsed by the church — I talked to Mormons standing in line who appeared to belong to a demographic within church membership that embraces their gay friends without hesitation and would welcome changes made to current exclusionary church policies and practices.
Coming from the stage that night, some of the messages seemed downright subversive — even from current Mormon celebrities and artists — in their eagerness to accept people and challenge institutional discrimination.