In her second film for Dazed Digital, Danielle Levitt interviews the 'God's Army' director whose Mormon classic subsequently founded Salt Lake City's Mollywood industry in 2000
Knowing the history of the Later Day Saints Church is helpful when trying to understand the genre known as Mollywood, or Mormon Cinema. Mollywood is only about 10 years old and is still looking claim a succinct identity. There are however, some defining specifics, the likes of which include abstinence from drinking, from sex and cavorting, coffee and tea-drinking, tattooing, really nothing in the 'fringe', exist in these films. Additionally the characters are often Mormons.
Richard Dutcher took the lead in establishing this genre after his movie 'God's Army' came to theaters. The Mormon Church is quite powerful in its numbers, and one of its great strengths is the ability to encourage congregations to vote, to participate, to watch and to think as one voice. So its not surprising that word of mouth and a collective approval of the film proved to be very successful for Richard Dutcher. It was a film about Mormons by a Mormon - basically a revolutionary concept when it was released just over a decade ago. Hearing Dutcher speak about that period of his life is a powerful experience. He had made a major impact on the Mormon population but discovered with his next film that the themes (curiosity, questioning of identity, sex, baptisms, etc...), that drew such a massive attendance for God's Army, were exactly what repelled Mormon cinema-goers the second time around...
Dutcher, who considered the subsequent films some of his best, was surprised the by the negative response. He had been a member of the church for his whole life and was now questioning the very fundamentals of the faith, essentially asking how there could be such a great divide over what his films could do for the community it was meant to service. About five years ago, he left the church. He felt stifled by the parameters that the genre was seemingly stuck to.
His office in Provo is an old mansion, multi-storied, where he sits for hours on his porch, or meditates in the designated room painted with spirit animals. He has taught film in colleges, and will always make films.