Planet Mollywood

Filmmaker Danielle Levitt presents the first in trilogy of films dedicated to Salt Lake City's Mormon film industry, and here talks us through her impressions and expectations of her time in Mollywood

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I arrived in Salt Lake City with my assistant Rafael. I've never spent any time in SLC and wasn't sure quite what to expect. I have had limited interactions with practicing Mormons and my understanding of their culture and traditions was vaguely formed by watching a TV series called 'Big Love'. Growing up in Los Angeles, my knowledge of the Mormon faith was restricted to their history with polygamy (made illegal by the church hundreds of years ago, but still); former American Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who had to address the nation to explain his faith; the break-out low budget comedy Napoleon Dynamite who's director and lead actor are both Mormons; Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage bill, and the HUGE church in L.A. on Santa Monica Boulevard that only practicing Mormons could enter - the rest of us would have to stand hundreds of yards downhill and view the church on a sidewalk and through gates.

And although it has been historically secretive, upon meeting our subjects, we were generously welcomed and taught about Mollywood (Mormon Cinema) and some Later Day Saints teaching. The city itself is beautiful, so isolated, surrounded by an incredible landscape of mountains, marshlands and mudflats. As it was told to me, Joseph Smith - founder of the LDS Church - lead his congregation as far from populated as he could. Prior to this pilgrimage, Smith had been trying to set up a North American Zion, and had been brutalised in their settlements by locals that did not agree with his teachings. Smith led his people to what is now Utah, as a means to escape persecution, finding a place so isolated that they could practice as they pleased.

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